TN lawmaker says proposed bill could keep some animal abusers from owning a pet entirely

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN/WJHL) – From hoarding dozens of animals in deplorable living situations to intentionally trying to kill them, a new bill in the works could keep these abusers from owning pets.

“A constituent of mine showed me an article of a person in Old Hickory who took a tire iron to several puppies, threw them against a tree, and killed them out of frustration of being fired from a job,” said Representative Darren Jernigan.

That’s when he created the first animal abuse registry in the United States.

Right now, it has 16 felony offenders who stay on for at least two years.

“What I failed to do the first time around was allowing a person to not own a pet during that time frame,” Jernigan explained.

RELATED STORY: TN lawmaker introduces bill to prevent animal abusers from having pets for 2 years

He says this new bill is to fix that, prohibiting these offenders from owning a companion animal for two years or longer.

“If the crime is so horrific, the judge can say five years, ten years, a ban for life,” Jernigan said.

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Laney Cuthbertson recently told News 2 she prosecutes four to five of these abuse cases every month.

“Our laws just need to be updated,” she said, “Even if you’re successful in prosecuting them, the penalties are minimal.”

Many people take plea deals and don’t even end up on the registry. Jernigan says the registry along with a ban on having pets should be part of the plea deal to get out of a felony.

“I’m sorry but the FBI is already introduced to tracking animal abusers because the next step is human beings,” Jernigan said.

This bill would not include horses or other farm animals.

Right now, Jernigan is still gathering co-sponsors for the bill. He says it’s getting a lot of positive feedback and expects it to pass this session.

To view the registry, click here.

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