Animal abusers registry proposed again in Rhode Island

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A bill aimed at preventing animal abusers from adopting or buying pets is once again being considered at the Rhode Island State House.

The Animal Abuser Registry Act, sponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese, D-North Providence, would direct the Attorney General’s office to create and maintain an online registry of people convicted of animal abuse crimes.

The registry would contain the photos, names, birth dates, and addresses of people living in Rhode Island who are convicted of animal abuse. It would also include details of the crime.

“I realize that there is a fiscal component to this,” Corvese told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night. “I am in the process of trying to convince House Finance that this is a worthy cause and should be funded.”

Corvese said the bill is aimed at preventing convicted animal abusers from owning any more pets. He modeled it on a similar “Rocky’s Law” in Orange County, New York.

Michael DiLauro with the Rhode Island Public Defender’s office testified against the bill, telling the committee that criminal registries give the public a false sense of security.

“Registries are not good public policies,” DiLauro said. “Law enforcement in Rhode Island is very good at sharing intelligence and information about particular individuals, so we believe that the false sense of security and the cost that is involved in implementing something like this do not justify this.”

Joe Warzycha of the RISPCA said the registry could help prevent adopted pets from falling into the wrong hands.

“I love the idea, I think it’s a great concept, but there are some details that need to be worked out,” Warzycha said.

According to the proposed bill, abusers would have to register within five days of their release from prison (or five days from conviction if not sentenced to prison) and pay $125 to do so. Any offender who fails to register would face up to a year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

Animal shelters and pet sellers would be required to check the registry before transferring ownership of an animal.

Under the Animal Abuser Registry Act, first-time offenders would have their crime listed on the registry for 15 years before being removed. Second-time offenders would be placed on the registry for life.

The bill was held for further study.

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