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March 3, 2010 > Ohlone Humane Society: Protecting the innocent from human predators

Ohlone Humane Society: Protecting the innocent from human predators

By Nancy Lyon

The most vulnerable individuals in our world are children and animals; they fall victim to human predators far too often and it is society's responsibility to find ways to protect them.

Community registries exist for child sex offenders, intended to alert those nearby that their children may be at risk. Access to this information is available as public information. Yet only a few communities have similar information available on animal abusers so that the unwary, whether an individual, animal shelter or a rescue have little information available to help ensure they don't hand over the fate of animals in their care to psychopaths seeking victims.

Currently there is help on the way if recently introduced California legislation passes into law; being an animal abuser will much more difficult to hide.

On February 19th, California State Senate majority leader Dean Florenz, a champion of animal protection, working with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) a California based non-profit organization, introduced Senate Bill 1277. It would be the first state criminal registry to mandate that animal abusers 18-years-old and over, convicted of felony animal abuse, register their names in a public database including community notification.

The proposed bill drafted by Senator Florenz and ALDF, would "alert the public to dangerous individuals and possibly act as an early detection service for other crimes." Convicted abusers would be required to present personal information and a current photograph.

The ALDF stated the effort to help states establish public registries of anyone convicted of animal abuse would protect animals, pet guardians and communities by preventing repeat offenses from anyone with a known history of abusing animals. This would include violence (torture, mutilation, intentional killings, etc.), sexual abuse, and animal fighting as well as neglect (such as hoarding).

It pointed to a number of instances in which a registry would be beneficial to prevent future abuse of animals. One such case was Shon Rahrig. While living in Ohio in 1999, Rahrig allegedly adopted several cats and a puppy from local shelters and tortured them sadistically. He poked out the eyes of a cat named Misty, broke her legs and jaw, cut off her paws, and left her bleeding in a laundry basket. His girlfriend turned him in and he took a plea bargain that admitted abuse of only one animal. Rahrig was forbidden to own an animal for five years, but he was subsequently seen at an adoption event in California. Without access to abuser information, how could an animal shelter or rescue know that a convicted sadist wants to "adopt" one of their animals?

Statistics show that the chances are if an animal is being abused there is a heightened chance if the household also has a child, that the child is also being abused. There is overwhelming evidence that child/human abusers, murderers and other violent criminals began their violent actions by abusing animals. A registry would make people aware that these twisted individuals exist and should never obtain another animal and that children in the home of an animal abuser may be at risk. Abuser files would be a matter of public record.

According to Joyce Tishler, ALDF's co-founder, "cruelty against animals is happening every hour of every day." Studies link such abuse with violence against humans, so monitoring animal abusers can be vital to public safety.

The legislation, if passed, would not use state money to fund the bill, but instead put a levy on pet food. Florez is asking for a levy of three cents a pound of pet food which he said figures out to about $1.50 a year for the owner of one cat. "We are asking people who have animals to participate in making sure there is some sort of protection for animals," Florez said.

If any money is left over from the pet food levies, Florez said it would go to county and city animal shelters to help start spay and neuter programs.

Registries for child predators continue as a valid tool to protect children from harm. The question is, should innocent animals have less protection from the sick and vicious human predators that presently lurk unidentified in our communities?
Bills similar to S.B.1277 have been proposed in Rhode Island, Colorado and Tennessee, though none became law. But this year there's confidence about passage, partly because it's favored by California's Senate majority leader, Dean Florez, and because "this is an example of law catching up with society's values."

For further information visit ALDF's website:

Watch Senator Florenz introduce SB 1277 on his website:

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