TN becomes first state with animal abuse registry

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is set to become the first state to release a registry that will consist of the names of people convicted of having intentionally abused animals.

Beginning Jan. 1, anyone can access the online registry, see a picture of the offender, and learn the offender’s age and where the offender lives, WBIR-TV reports (http://on.wbir.com/1ZAkHjQ).

The Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation in May to allow the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to create the website.

State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the law was modeled after registries that are kept of sexual offenders. He thinks he the new law will be a strong deterrent against animal abuse.

“When you’re unkind to an animal, that really gets the public’s attention,” Briggs said.

The registry consists of those convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, or felony animal fighting. First-time offenders will spend two years on the registry, while a second offense makes it five.

Jason Hopson and Amanda Hopson run the Bright Hope Animal Rescue in Greeneville.

They applaud the new law, but Jason Hopson also said he hoped offenders would always be on the registry.

“Animals can’t talk for themselves so we have to be their voice,” said Amanda Hopson said.

Note: The bill was HB147, sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan and Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Nashville Democrats. It actually passed the legislature in April (90-0 House, 28-1 Senate) though it was signed by the governor in May.