The Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration act was sent to the Governor for action on April 27, 2015 after passing in both legislative houses a few days earlier.  The law, if passed, would require the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to publish a list of persons convicted of the following criminal offenses against animals:

(1) Aggravated animal cruelty;

(2) Felony animal fighting; and

(3) Bestiality and related offenses.

Information about a person listed would be removed from the list if the sole offense for which the person is on the list is expunged.  The bill also defines the time a person’s name would remain on the list:

Upon a first conviction of an animal abuse offense, a person’s name and identifying information will remain on the list for two years following the conviction, and the TBI will remove the name at the end of the two-year period, unless that person commits another animal abuse offense during that time. If a person is convicted of an animal abuse offense a second or subsequent time, that person’s name will remain on the list for five years, and the TBI will remove it at the end of that time, unless the person commits another animal abuse offense during the five-year period.

Animal abuse registries have been proposed in several states and adopted in some jurisdictions, including three counties in New York State, but no state has adopted such a law  . . . yet.

The bill, as originally introduced, included “cruelty to animals” as a listed offense, but this was removed by amendment, which probably facilitated its passage by the legislature.

The language, as adopted, excludes provisions that have concerned legislators and the animal industry sectors in other states about the unintended consequences of such a registry.

By identifying egregious offenses against animals, providing for reasonable time limitations, and removing listed names when appropriate, the law would protect animals from future harm and also protect people who may be wrongly accused.

However, there may be concern that the law could evolve in the future to include unreasonably harmful provisions, like those included in proposed bill called “Moose’s Law” in New Jersey.

Moose’s Law “prohibits persons convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses from owning domestic companion animals and from working or volunteering at animal-related enterprises” presumably forever.  There are no time limits in this proposed law.

Amendments have helped improve Moose’s Law.  Originally, a person who was criminally or civilly liable under the animal cruelty statute would be prohibited from owning or working with animals.  While much improved, this bill is still problematic, and likely impossible for the state departments responsible for its implementation to comply with.

And, notably, the registry still includes anyone who has been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, a violation of any provision of chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes.

Perhaps a do-over is in order, using Tennessee’s bill as a model.