dog-holding-gavel.jpgThere are some crimes so heinous, whose perpetrators so prone to recidivism, that it makes sense for the government to keep a registry of all offenders. The prime example is the Department of Justice’s national sex offender database, created after the passage of Megan’s Law in 1994. Australia passed a law last year creating a similar database of Aussie arsonists. Now there are some in San Francisco looking to do the same for animal abusers.

In a proposal to be presented to the SF’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare tonight, San Francisco Animal Care and Control’s Sandra Bernal is expected to advocate creating a database of animal abusers for use by rescue groups, shelters and other non-profits.

“I want to create a database that involves names of the people that have been convicted of animal abuse,” says Bernal, “and also of the people who have not been convicted because there was not enough evidence to prosecute them, along with people who have neglected animals in the past.”

There are already a number of online databases tracking crimes against animals (Pet-Abuse.com and Inhumane.org are the most notable), and, according to the Ex, SF’s “biggest adoption centers, Animal Care and Control and the San Francisco chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals…maintain their own records about pet offenders, but there is no coordinated system.”

Appeal staffer and Rocket Dog Rescuer Laura Beck tells SFist she believes the proposal could be helpful to orgs like hers, “because sometimes no matter how much screening you do, you miss stuff. Having one more precaution against sending a dog or cat into a screwed up home would be useful.”

While the proposal is definitely admirable, seeing as animal abuse is often a precursor to violence against humans and keeping tabs on something who tortured a cat to death isn’t exactly a bad idea, there are some obvious challenges with the proposal.

Going after convicted animal abusers is one thing, but keeping people either acquitted or accused but never charged under an official cloud of suspicion seems problematic. The program would only be local so its ability to keep tabs on, let’s say, the infamous Fort Funston dog stabber after he decamped for Sacramento, would be extremely limited.

However, there are theoretically plans to use San Francisco as a pilot program with an eye on expansion to the rest of California. In which case, the database would track never-convicted dog stabber as long as he remained in the state. If he were to move to Nevada, the program would have to go national to keep up with him.

Also, officials with Animal Care and Control said they don’t have a cost estimate for a local system.

Perhaps San Francisco can look to Suffolk County, N.Y., which is getting ready to enforce the nation’s first animal abuse registry law.

“Just as sex offenders are on a registry, you should know who is living next door to you, if somebody is an animal abuser,” Chief Roy Gross, of the Suffolk County SPCA, told CBS when the law was approved last fall.

The New York registry, which will only track convicted abusers, requires offenders to register in the same way sex offenders must. That database, unlike the one proposed for San Francisco, will be open to the public.

The San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare is scheduled to hear Bernal’s proposal tonight (Thursday, April 14) at 5:30 PM in City Hall, room 408. The public is welcome to attend.

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  • Zouaf

    Preventing animal abuse is a laudable goal but the comparison to the sex offenders list makes me queasy. There are a lot of people who will be forever branded sex offenders even though their crimes were pretty innocuous – kids under the age of consent who got caught fooling around, for example. I’m not familiar with the legal guidelines defining animal abuse but I’d want them to be pretty stringent.