Bill would protect animals and potential abusers

There’s a lot of suspect legislation introduced in the county Legislature, as with all lawmaking bodies, drawn up for no other purposes than to grab headlines or pander to voters.

A bill crafted by Legislator Jon Cooper of Lloyd Harbor that would create a countywide public registry of convicted animal abusers doesn’t fall into that category. While it may please plenty of constituents, the potential outcomes of such a law would help better our communities in Suffolk County, where each month it seems a resident is hauled away in cuffs for gross abuse or neglect of animals — be it dogs, horses or exotic pets.

Under the proposal, the names of those found guilty of abuse would forever be listed on a public registry, much like the state’s sex offender registry, along with the offenders’ photos and addresses.

However, unlike the popular sex offender registry — the effectiveness of which is still being debated, as the vast majority of sex abuse victims are targeted by people they know — the lives of animal abusers won’t be utterly ruined if their names are listed publicly. Unless a convicted offender were going to adopt a pet or, say, work with animals, he or she would likely still be able to find a job or housing in Suffolk while trying to move on after serving time.

But the risk of ongoing public shame might give potential animal abusers pause before starting or continuing abusive actions toward a cat, dog or any creature. And that could help the potential abuser, as well as other members of our communities. Consider what we’ve reported this week: that a 2005 study in the Journal of Community Health found that pet abuse was one of five factors that predicted other abusive behaviors.

Provided the Suffolk County SPCA can fund the program, with help from fees paid by convicted abusers, our county lawmakers and executive should approve this bill, which could be voted on as soon as this fall. Such a measure would be the first in any municipality in the U.S. That’s a distinction Suffolk County should be known for.