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Suffolk County Approves Animal Abuse Registry

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/ WCBS 880) -- A new measure to create the nation's first animal abuse registry has been approved in Suffolk County.

Those convicted of animal abuse charges would be required to be on the registry for five years.

Natalie DiTommasso's Jack Russel Terrier, named Poppie, was rescued from a Suffolk County home where he was tortured.

"It's very sad to think what he came from. I think of it every day," DiTommasso said. "He's in a loving home right now, [but] he still hides his food."

The abuse of Poppie and other pets like him prompted an historic vote for animals, just passed by Suffolk County lawmakers and now garnering national attention.

LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Mike Xirinachs on the registry
LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reports

"Just as sex offenders are on a registry, you should know who is living next door to you, if somebody is an animal abuser," Chief Roy Gross, of the Suffolk County SPCA, said.

Chief Gross said the new Animal Protection Bill will include an instant background check. The name, address and photo of any convicted animal abuser will be made public on the registry for five years, in an attempt to stop individuals from preying on innocent animals.

So far this year in Suffolk County, 17 people have been brought up on animal abuse charges involving the mistreatment of 362 pets.

"This will absolutely save the lives of innocent pets and animals, but there is, as I said, a correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence," Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper said.

Cooper said that studies show animal abuse is often a precursor to abuse of people.

Some have criticized the harshness of making animal abusers' identities public, and say you can't compare them to sex offenders.

Others, though, don't see it as controversial.

"Somebody can come in here with their best face on, and can appear on the surface to be a great home, and we could accidentally put a dog in a bad situation," Michelle Mulnard-Curtin, of Second Chance Wildlife Rescue, said. "It's a milestone for animal rescue people."

Shelters like Second Chance, along with pet stores and breeders, would be banned from allowing abusers to adopt or buy.

The Animal Protection Bill will not burden taxpayers. It will be administered without cost to Suffolk County by the SPCA. Those on the list will have to pay a $50 annual fee to help fund the registry.

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