In the hierarchy of social justice issues, the rights of animals are often ranked at or near the very bottom of the pyramid. Sadly, most people overlook the problems animals face, regarding them less as beings with emotions and desires and more as objects whose central role is to satisfy the needs of humans: food, clothing, scientific advancement, entertainment, companionship, etc. Even the law regards animals as property, with no more rights than a toaster or an old sofa. Yet the law can help protect animals, and organizations around the world are dedicated to creating animal-protection legislation and ensuring that animal abusers are held responsible for their crimes.

One such group, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, has just launched a campaign urging states to enact animal-abuser registries that would help keep anyone convicted of felony animal cruelty away from new victims by allowing animal shelters and humane societies to more thoroughly screen potential adopters. Such registries, inspired by Megan’s Law, would also allow the public to discover if animal abusers live in their community.

“Animal abuse is not only a danger to our cats, dogs, horses and other animals, but also to people,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “Many animal abusers have a history of domestic violence or other criminal activity, and there is a disturbing trend of animal abuse among our country’s most notorious serial killers.” These murderers include Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo (“The Boston Strangler”), David Berkowtiz (“The Son of Sam”) and Dennis Rader (“The BTK Killer”), all of whom tortured and killed animals before moving on to humans. Animal cruelty is so common among violent offenders that the FBI has linked it to serial homicides, domestic violence and child abuse. “But it’s not just about how animal abusers end up also hurting or killing humans,” says Wells. “It should be enough to protect our animals from repeat offenders ― and any abuse of any kind.”

You can learn more about the registry at ExposeAnimalAbusers.org.

ALDF’s campaign launch coincides with National Justice for Animals Week (February 21-27), an effort by the nonprofit to educate the public about abuses that have become a hidden epidemic in the US. Throughout the week, ALDF will be posting daily action items, advice on how to recognize and report cruelty to animals and profiles of 2010 National Justice for Animals Week honorees ― district attorneys and other local law enforcement officials who have demonstrated an aggressive commitment to bringing animal abusers to justice.

What You Can Do:

  • Use the site’s one-click functionality to contact your legislators and urge them to support public registries of convicted animal abusers.