Be Scared: Westchester Creates Its Own Registry

Following the passage of an Animal Abuse Registry in Suffolk County, New York, animal rights advocates pushed Westchester County to dig a hole of its own.  While causing sadistic harm to pets has no justification, the leap from prosecution to creating an analog to sex offender registries, which immediately descended into a disastrous morass, is spreading.

The initiative in Westchester was backed by Roxanne Beecher, who appeared in favor of the new law as a member of he Westchester County Bar Association, animal rights committee.  She pitched the County :

Ms. Beecher stated that Westchester County ranks number 9 out of 62 counties in the state for cases filed for animal abuse and this is why they are asking for animal abuser registry.  She said 71% of abused  or battered women report that their abuser has hurt or killed animals, 32% of battered women with children report that their children have hurt or killed animals, and 25-48% of battered women report delaying leaving their abuser for fear of their animal being abused. 

She said there was a woman (not in Westchester) in a domestic violence shelter who received photos from her mother of her estranged husband cutting off her dogs ears with garden shears and he was threatening to hurt her other animals. This woman left the shelter to go rescue her animals and she has since disappeared.

Ms. Beecher continued by saying 40% of battered women report that they are forced to perform sexual acts with animals, 48% of rapists have committed acts of animal cruelty as adolescents, 30% of child molesters have committed acts of animal abuse, and 15% of active rapists also rape animals.

Sick stuff, for sure, and certainly more than enough to inform the legislators to be scared of these sick animal abusers. Except a bit of research fails to back up most of it.  Even the  Humane Society’s “fact sheet,” also unsourced, supported only Beecher’s first statistic. Other than that, the balance appears of dubious origin.

Beecher then informed the County that plenty of others have been busy enacting animal abuse registries:

Ms. Beecher stated that the following states currently have an animal abusers registry: California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maine, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia. 

Except a little research shows this, too, falls a bit shy of accurate.  According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the leading advocacy group supporting animal abuse registries, only three have been enacted across the country, all in New York, consisting of Suffolk, Rockland and Albany County. While registries have been proposed elsewhere, and have occasionally passed on legislative house (such as in Texas), they have never made it to enactment.

Clearly, Beecher’s “expert” advocacy offered a horribly scary picture of animal abusers, And it certainly comes as no surprise that no one appeared to speak in favor of animal abusers. But what of the Westchester Bar Association’s criminal defense members?  There may be nothing good to say about anyone who abuses animals, but there’s plenty to say about the creation of a registry that will turn yet another group, who like the hated “sex offenders,” will come to encompass the deserving as well as the undeserving, into second class citizens who will be unable to find work, homes or normal lives.

Or what of the advocates of domestic abuse, having their issue usurped by animal rights activists with statistics that seem absurd and incredible?  Do “40% of battered women report that they are forced to perform sexual acts with animals”?  Are “15% of active rapists also rape animals”?  How would it even be possible to arrive at such a statistic? Do active rapists respond to surveys? 

This contradicts the current theory about rape, that it’s a control crime rather than a sex crime. But if rapists spend their spare time raping animals (seriously?), then it’s not about control over another person, but about sick sexual gratification. Are rape advocates in agreement with this?

After hearing this litany of horrors, the Westchester County Board of Legislators  unanimously approved the animal abuse registry.

According to Tuesday’s Westchester News, new legislation will not only mandate that convicted animal abusers be listed in a public database of animal abuse offenders, but those offenders will also be prohibited from owning, adopting or otherwise possessing (or exercising control over) any animals.

The county legislators made their unanimous decision based upon known ties between animal cruelty and domestic abuse, citing testimony from Roxanne Beecher, Co-Chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Westchester County Bar Association…

Known ties?  Not until now, when this pitch is bootstrapped into some alternate reality where the blind adoption of these statistics will be repeated wherever the ALDF next seeks to pitch a registry.  And then it will appear in quickie research online, not because there is any foundation for it, but merely because of repetition, until the myth becomes the reality.

This is how bad law is born, and how the basis for bad law moves from fiction to reality.  While one might hope that legislators would seek to know the basis for such outrageous claims, rather than blindly embrace them as “known ties” when there appears to be no empirical basis for them, one might similarly hope that the criminal defense committee would appear to counter the animal rights committee, to warn of the hole they are digging and the fiasco they may be creating.

This isn’t about a lack of concern for animal abuse, for which criminal laws exist and abusers received well-deserved punishment.  This is about the growth of registries as a trendy reaction, like such other simplistic solutions as three-strikes laws and mandatory minimums, whose unintended consequences have proven to create problems far beyond the purported intent of these registries. 

Whether Westchester County would have enacted the animal abuse registry regardless of Beecher’s claims isn’t clear. Once a fashion trend begins, it can be hard to stop. There may be no one willing to speak out on behalf of animal abusers, just as there was no one to speak out on behalf of sex offenders, until the stories begin of outrageous and unintended applications that start destroying lives.  By then, however, it will be too late, as the registry was already unanimously approved based on once spurious, now “known,” claims.

19 thoughts on “Be Scared: Westchester Creates Its Own Registry

  1. Jeff Gamso

    Really, a registry isn’t enough to protect the animals of Westchester County from these presumptively recidivist predators.

    Since we can’t count on every animal to know which neighbor is a likely animal rapist, we need to ensure that nobody on the registry can ever be within 1,000 feet of any animal that is not on a leash and accompanied by an adult owner.

    I’m working on determining an appropriate punishment for someone who doesn’t ensure that stray squirrels cannot cross his path.

    The penalty for having a

    [Ed. Note: Gamso mistakenly hit the “submit comment” button (more likely, just “return”) before completing his comment. Fortunately, this seems a great idea for a new contest, Complete Gamso’s Thought.  The winner will receive an official Jeff Gamso mustache comb.}

  2. pml

    So my question is who is going to submit the names to the registry? Surely not the District/Town/Village court. Since this is only a county law and the courts don’t report to them, how will they know?

  3. SHG

    The magic of google answers the silliest of questions:

    Sec. 705.05. Requirements.

    1. All persons eighteen (18) years of age or older who reside in Westchester County and who are convicted of an animal abuse crime on or after the effective date of this law must register with the Westchester County Animal Abuser Registry within five (5) days following the effective date of this law or their release from incarceration or, if not incarcerated, from the date of the rendering of judgment.

    2. The prosecuting agency shall notify all persons upon conviction of an animal abuse crime that they must register with the Westchester County Animal Abuser Registry within five (5) days following their release from incarceration or, if not incarcerated, from the date of the rendering of judgment.

    3. When a person is convicted of an animal abuse crime, the prosecuting agency shall forward to the Westchester County Department of Public Safety the name and address of the convicted person along with the name of the animal abuse crime the person was convicted of, thereby notifying the Westchester County Department of Public Safety that the person is required to register with the Animal Abuser Registry.

    Why is it that it’s worth people’s time to post a comment, but not worth their time to just google the frigging text of the law, if they have a question?

  4. Dan

    What purpose is this registry supposed to serve? Sex offender registries are at least ostensibly there to protect and warn the public. Does Ms. Beecher expect people to search the registry for their neighbors’ names, so they know which houses to avoid when walking their dog?

  5. Catherine Mulcahey

    “liver snap, milk bone,rawhide chew, whistle, duck call, catnip mouse, sunflower seed,scratching post, or other animal-luring paraphenalia by a person listed on the Westchester County Animal Abuser Registry shall be removal of the offender’s ears by means of garden shears for a first offense, and no less than 30 days in a Havahart Trap in the office of Roxanne Beecher for subsequent offenses.”
    I’m too far away from Gamso to comb his mustache, so if I win he can keep the comb.

  6. Brett Middleton

    Perhaps they will start requiring veterinarians to regularly check their client lists against the registry. Or ask retailers to check customers who purchase pets or supplies. Buy a bag of kitty litter at the supermarket? Better be prepared to prove you plan to keep it in your car for use in winter emergencies.

  7. Greg Lubow

    Rabid is an understated way to describe some who react to animal abuse allegations. I received more and more vitriolic hate mail when I represent someone accused of animal abuse than any other type of client. recently a client was arrested for animal abuse when his 18 year old dog was found on the road near his house by the cops; that he had made arrangements with a vet to euthanize the dog in the days ahead was, initially of no consequence. But the egregious posts to the local paper went over the line when one writer hoped that the client would fall asleep in the road and be struck and killed by a drunk driver – only to withdraw his comment when the client’s friends, who knew of his great love for his dog inundated the paper with the truth.
    Take a look at yesterday’s Law Journal – there is a 3rd dept decision where an animal protection worker claimed that the attorney representing a client accused of animal abuse (later dismissed)allegedly claimed that he was the DA of the county and demanded the animal back – even though he had a court order to take the animal back.
    Beware those holier than thou.

  8. Catherine Mulcahey

    I might change my mind about the prize. May I please see a picture of the mustache and the comb?

  9. nodandsmile

    ny publications, artwork or electronic media including images of animals being potentially harmed or portrayed in a manner that common use would consider unusual and/or obscene, including but not limited to “Horse and Hound”, “Five dogs playing poker”, “Brony Annual”, “The Muppets” and “Bambi” shall result in 10-100 days in the public dog-house or 10-100 days as a council-use mount or two weeks as public scratching post/marking post or other public furniture for the use of Westchester pets.

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