Law creating animal abuser registry passes

MAYVILLE — Abuse an animal — and get convicted — and your name will appear on a registry found on the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s webpage.

A law to create an animal abuse registry passed through the County Legislature via unanimous vote at Wednesday’s meeting. Specifically, the name, address and photo of an animal abuse offender will appear on the registry. The offender’s information will stay on the registry for a period of 15 years.

Once the law is in effect, animal abuse offenders residing in Chautauqua County who are convicted of an animal abuse crime must register with the county Animal Abuser Registry within five days of release from incarceration, or if not jailed, from the date of the rendering of judgment. Those who are required to register will have to pay a $125 fee to the sheriff’s office. Such fees aim to help pay the administrative and maintenance costs of maintaining the registry.

Creation of a registry aims to prevent convicted animal abusers from obtaining an animal from a shelter, seller or other entity involved in the exchanging of animals.

Legislator and Public Safety Chairman Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, noted that the law was tabled last month to further listen to stakeholders and clarify some of the language. As far as legislation, Niebel said it’s necessary.

Earlier in the month, Robert Overton Jr., of Jamestown, was charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal, a felony, after his dog was found decomposing in a wooded area near Hallock and Palmer streets.

“Animal abuse does exist,” he said. “We had a horrific incident in Chautauqua County just a couple weeks ago. It’s the intent of this local law to prevent mistreatment of animals. It does so through the fine and penalties in the animal abuse registry.”

Niebel thanked Sheriff Joe Gerace for bringing the issue to legislators’ attention, County Executive George Borrello for his motion of support and County Attorney Steve Abdella for his assistance.

Through the law, if an animal abuse offender fails to register, they’ll be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by incarceration for a period not to exceed one year, or a fine not to exceed $2,000.

An animal abuse offender who violates the prohibition against possessing an animal will be guilty of a misdemeanour with punishment detailing one year in jail or a fine up to $5,000.

Animal shelters and sellers failing to examine the list and transfer an animal to an offender will face a violation and be subject to a $5,000 fine.

Following approval, Borrello said the registry will be formed by the sheriff’s office. Borrello said the registry will serve as a deterrent.

“I want people to think twice about abusing or neglecting an animal because the consequence now is just not in most cases a relatively minor fine,” Borrello said. “Now, you’re going to be on that list for 15 years. To me that’s the teeth we needed to prevent animal abuse.”