Exposing Animal Abusers in Tennessee

The state’s Animal Abuse Registry aims to inform its citizens and protect animal residents

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on February 21, 2024

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From emotional damages to pet trusts, the law has made some significant strides in recent years to better establish and recognize animal rights.

In May 2015, Tennessee made history when its state legislature passed the Animal Abuser Registration Act, making it the first state to track people who have been convicted of an animal abuse crime.

What Is the Goal of Tennessee’s Animal Abuse Registry?

In addition to providing citizens with the ability to search potential abusers in their area (not unlike sexual offender registries), one of the hopes of the Animal Abuse Registry is that animal providers, animal shelters, humane societies, breeders, and pet stores in the state check it before selling an animal.

While this registry is the first for a state law, municipalities in New York, Florida, and Illinois have local ordinances and advocates are continuing to push for a national database to further protect animal welfare.

What Offenses Put Someone on the Animal Abuse Registry?

The law gives authority to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to list offenders associated with:

The law applies to companion animals or non-livestock animals, meaning dogs, cats, exotic animals, domesticated chicks, ducks, and pot-bellied pigs.

What Information About Offenders Is Included in the Registry?

Any person convicted of one of the criminal offenses above must list their name, date of birth, offense, and date of conviction.

The period of time on the registry is a mandatory two years with a five-year extension for any further cruelty discovered while they are on the registry. Other laws in Tennessee allow the courts to order any person convicted of the offenses above to not own any domestic animals for a period of the judge’s choosing.

How Can I Help Prevent Animal Abuse?

Animals cannot advocate for themselves under animal cruelty laws. But humans can do so on their behalf. If you see or suspect any animal abuse, call your local animal control agency or police department.

You additionally have the option of seeking a civil protection order on behalf of the animals that are being abused. For help in filing, seek out the help of an experienced animal law attorney. For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of animal law.

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