We know that animals on their own are defenceless against human cruelty. Current animal welfare law is a start, but there are serious loopholes. It's a surprise to many that at the moment there is no legal requirement to record an animal abuser's name and details on any Register, or to make abusers report any change in their details or address. This means the police and prosecuting agencies can't keep track of offenders and prevent further cruelty to animals. This is the case even if the abuser has been convicted and banned by the courts from owning or keeping animals under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Practically speaking, this means there is nothing to stop any banned offender carrying on abusing animals with little fear of detection. There are some successful prosecutions of offenders who breach their banning orders, but there would be a much higher level of animal protection if we had an Animal Abuser Register. Until then, the police, the animal sanctuaries, animal protection agencies, pet shops, and pet owners will not know who the animal abusers in their community are.
Animal abuse, child abuse, abuse of vulnerable adults, and domestic violence
Many offenders who abuse animals go on to commit serious crimes of violence against human beings. Therefore, quite apart from the fact animals need and deserve the special protection of an Animal Abuser Registry, human beings also need that protection.
There are documented links between animal abuse, child abuse and the abuse of vulnerable adults. The multi- agency Links Group, whose supporters include the NSPCC, the RSPCA, Refuge, and Paws for Kids, is working to raise awareness of the links. Studies in the USA, where they already have Animal Abuse Registries, show that a high proportion of violent partners harm or kill pets in that household, or threaten to do so, in order to punish, silence or control their human victims, as well as inflicting other forms of violence. A Register entry would alert professionals to possible child abuse or other types of abuse, which might otherwise be concealed.
The right to know
The current Clare's Law scheme allows women to ask about violence in a new partner's past. What we say is that whatever information they are currently being given, it's not complete. They should also have a right to ask, and to be told, about violence to animals in a partner's past. This cannot happen unless we have an Animal Abuser Registry.
Animal abuse and murder
Murderers often start offending by torturing and killing animals. The double murderer Stephen Farrow (convicted last year) killed other people's pet animals as a child. The killers Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, Raoul Moat, and the child murderers Ian Brady, Thomas Hamilton, Robert Thompson, and Ian Huntley all killed animals after torturing them. The daughter of one of Stephen Farrow's victims made a plea for better monitoring of violent offenders at large in our society. Many other victims' families have made similar pleas in the past.
How many victims might have been saved, and how many serious criminal injuries prevented, if the attacker's name had been flagged up earlier in police enquiries by an Animal Abuser Registry entry? How can we let this situation continue?
Why do we need a Registry?
From a practical viewpoint, we need a Registry so that abusers' details can be entered, updated, and as a result properly monitored. The Register would have details of offenders who have been cautioned for abuse, as well as those who have been taken to court and convicted.
However the main reason we need this extra measure for animal abusers is because animal abusers, like sex offenders, fall into a special category.
The reasons why someone abuses an animal can be complex. However, there can be no doubt, from convicted cases alone, that a large number of individuals enjoy being cruel to animals. They enjoy torturing a defenceless living being, often a loving pet, and they enjoy watching their pain and suffering. These abusers go on to abuse again because they strongly desire to repeat that experience. They might choose other animals as their victims, or they might choose human victims, and sometimes they also kill their victims. That taste for cruelty and killing is what sets animal abusers apart from other criminals. That is why they are dangerous, and that is why we need an Animal Abuser Registry.
The police, prosecuting agencies, social services, animal welfare and child welfare organisations, and indeed the whole community including animals, are all currently missing out, without the vital information and safeguard an Animal Abuser Register would provide. An Animal Abuser Registry is long overdue, and needs to be set up without delay.
How we can make the Registry happen
We are asking the Home Office and Ministry of Justice to bring in legislation for an Animal Abuser Registry, with strong penalties for offenders who break the conditions of their registration.
Please sign the petition and send the letters to your MP and the Ministers involved, and ask your friends and family to do the same.
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