A bill introduced in the NJ legislature in 2014 called for registration of all state residents ever convicted of animal cruelty. The bill got stuck in committee that year and went nowhere in 2015.  But it has now been introduced as Senate Bill 213 and Assembly (i.e. house) bill A1291 in the 2016 legislative session.

The new bills consist of the same 2014 language, as follows:

“The Legislature finds and declares that: (1) Reputable studies in the fields of psychology, sociology, and criminology have consistently demonstrated that violent offenders often have childhood or adolescent histories involving serious, intentional acts of animal cruelty, and one study indicates that animal abuse may be characteristic of the developmental histories of up to 66 percent of violent offenders. (2) The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recognized the link between animal abuse and later acts of violence since the 1970s, when its analysis of serial killers revealed that most had killed or tortured animals during their lives.”

The bills go on to cite a groundbreaking 1983 study of 53 New Jersey families being treated for child abuse that found that animal abuse was also present 88 percent of the time. It also cites another study showing that nearly one-half of rapists and almost one-third of pedophiles had also engaged in acts of cruelty towards animals.

The bills also address another type of animal abuse – fighting for profit. It notes reports that those involved in such fighting are also very often perpetrators of other violent crimes, including shootings, and keep to their animal habits even after arrest and conviction.

Finally, the bills cite evidence showing most abusers repeat, and that seals the case for a registry:

“Because evidence shows that persons who commit animal abuse offenses are likely to engage in recidivist acts of violence against either or both animals or humans, such persons pose a clear and significant threat to public safety, and, as a result, have a reduced expectation of privacy upon being convicted of or found civilly liable for these offenses.”

“Knowledge of an animal abuse offender’s presence in the community could be a significant factor in protecting oneself, one’s family members, and one’s companion animals or livestock, from recidivist acts of the offender,”

The proposed system has the following highlights:  Anyone residing or working in New Jersey would be required to register if they had ever been convicted of animal cruelty at any time in any jurisdiction. Changes of address would have to be reported going forward. Physical characteristics would be noted. An offender can apply for removal from the list only after 15 years without an offense.

Information regarding any abuser would be available to any state or federal law enforcement agency, as well as various other agencies in New Jersey. Beyond that, however, disclosure would be controlled by the state Attorney General in coordination with an advisory board according to specific guidelines.

In particular, the AG office would categorize offenders according to risk of re-offense. Information regarding those in the lowest category would not be publicly available. Information regarding those in higher categories would be posted on the Internet, and would be automatically provided to all public and private animal-related agencies. In certain situations, other specific individuals and/or agencies, would also be notified about a high-risk abuser.

Support for registries has continued to grow since Tennessee began compiling a registry at the beginning of this year. In addition to the New Jersey effort, proposals in Connecticut, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania were renewed in 2016 after falling short earlier. Meanwhile, new efforts have begun in Washington State, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.