Putting animal offenders on a par with sex offenders.

i March 15, 2010

California has often led the way in animal protection legislation, although the Golden State’s attempt to enact a mandatory spay/neuter law a few legislative sessions ago was unsuccessful (for ISAR’s opposition to that bill because of its loopholes, see OUR MONOGRAPH).

Proposition 2 in 2008 mandated more space for confined livestock animals (though the law accepted the premise that some confinement followed by slaughter was acceptable).

In 2008, California was the first jurisdiction in the United States to prohibit cutting off dairy cows’ tails, a cruel practice, among others, designed to facilitate milking.

Now, the State Senate’s majority leader, Democrat Dean Florez, who also serves as chairman of that body’s Food and Agriculture Committee, has introduced legislation providing for an “animal abuser registry” which would mimic the sex offender registry found in California and elsewhere. Conviction of an animal cruelty felony would result, in addition to other penalties provided by law, in posting of the offender’s name, photograph and other information on the Internet.

While ISAR has not seen the current bill, nor can know the actual language which may survive the legislative process and constitute the final draft (and thus reserve our right to oppose it), we support the current proposal in principle for at least two reasons. First, it does not break much new ground because states already maintain various publically-accessible registries, from lists of nail salon licensees to arsonists and sex offenders nor does it invade the oft-invoked “right” to “privacy.” Second, under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States each state retains the power to legislate in furtherance of the public health, safety, welfare and morals–and a publicly-accessible felony animal-abuser registry falls squarely within that power.