WHITE PLAINS, NY — The Westchester County Board of Legislators unanimously approved a new law this week at its regular meeting that establishes a county-wide registry for animal abuse offenders. This database, which will be searchable by the public and administered by the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, will serve to inform the public of animal abuse convictions that have occurred in the county.
The new legislation, which now awaits County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s signature, prohibits any person required to register with the Animal Abuser Registry from possessing, adopting and owning, purchasing or exercising control over any animal. Persons convicted of animal abuse crimes that fail to abide by the requirements of the law would be subject to the penalties as defined in the statute.
“This new law will help safeguard pets and other domestic animals while also providing protection against domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes,” said Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains), chair of the BOL Legislation Committee, who noted that leading child and animal abuse professionals have determined and acknowledged a correlation between perpetrators of all these crimes.
According to testimony from Roxanne Beecher, Co-Chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Westchester County Bar Association, Westchester County ranks number 9 out of 62 counties in New York for cases filed for animal abuse. Beecher also stated that 71% of abused or battered women report that their abuser has hurt or killed animals, 32% of battered women with children report that their children have hurt or killed animals, and 25-48% of battered women report delaying leaving their abuser for fear of their animal being abused. Beecher added that 40% of battered women report that they are forced to perform sexual acts with animals, 48% of rapists have committed acts of animal cruelty as adolescents, 30% of child molesters have committed acts of animal abuse, and 15% of active rapists also rape animals.
The following states currently have an animal abusers registry: California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maine, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia. Proposed animal abuse registry legislation is in place in many other states as well, and the FBI is pushing for a federal bill.
“The Board of Legislators spent over a year working on this bill, and I’m pleased that it received full support from my colleagues,” said Ryan. “Before moving this bill forward, we made sure that there would be little cost to the taxpayers associated with making this registry available to the public on the County website.”
Commissioner of the Department of Social Services Kevin McGuire remarked in testimony to the BOL Legislation Committee that a public animal abuse registry would help prevent child abuse and also help make sure children are not placed with animal abusers.
“This opportunity to make Westchester a safer place for our residents was entirely deserving of our careful consideration and strong action,” concluded Ryan.