2012-04-04 / Editorials

Legislature should support animal cruelty registry

Bee Editorial

Mistreating an animal is behavior no one can condone, yet it continues to happen anyway.

Kudos to Erie County Legislator Terrence McCracken for bringing attention to the issue by proposing legislation that would establish a registry of convicted offenders.

The list would identify for five years individuals who commit animal abuses. Its aim is to prohibit them from buying or adopting an animal while they are on the list. Repeat offenders would be listed for an additional 10 years.

In the words of Gina Browning, the public relations director for the Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, McCracken and the Legislature are taking a good first step with this proposal. She said the county should be applauded for reviewing the initiative, particularly in light of all of the other challenges it is facing. Critics could argue that some more important work is being put aside in favor of protecting animals.

We would counter that there’s no greater work. It’s been proven that those who prey upon the weak — a defenseless animal — also have no regard for people or property.

The way a person treats an animal says a lot about his or her character. The registry would provide helpful information about an individual to a prospective employer, mate, client, etc. If someone terrorized a dog, chances are you don’t want him or her around your child or working in your business.

Browning makes a good point, however, in noting that there are different levels of animal cruelty. Should an individual who fails one time to provide shelter on a cold night be painted with the same brush as a person who sets a cat on fire? That’s an important discussion for the Legislature to have, and it should be conducted with the SPCA. The law will also get a public airing and it will no doubt yield useful points from residents.

A registry won’t stop abuse, and it won’t stop the wrong people from owning animals. Deals between unscrupulous owners will continue to be brokered over backyard fences and the Internet. Sadly, there will always be an animal enduring a situation it should not have to.

But this law, if enacted, will go a long way in making the lives of Erie County animals a lot better.

Gandhi, the story goes, once said that you can judge a society based on its treatment of its weakest members — its animals. This law will put Erie County well ahead of its peers, and it would be something of which we could all be proud.

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