Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence: Why the Connection Justifies Increased Protection

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence: Why the Connection Justifies Increased Protection

Article excerpt

I. Introduction.........................................................................360

II. The Link Between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence...................................................................361

A. Animal Abuse and Children..............................................362

1. Childhood Exposure to Violence Leads to Childhood Animal Abuse..............................................................363

2. A Childhood History of Animal Abuse Leads to Violence Towards Humans.........................................364

B. Animal Abuse and Intimate Partner Abuse Victims.........366

III. Legislative Response to The Link...................................371

A. Cross-reporting Statutes...................................................372

B. Psychological Treatment Provisions in Animal Cruelty Laws.................................................................................373

IV. Closing the Legislative Gap in Protection...................379

A. Current Status of Animal Cruelty' Laws in Tennessee......380

B. The Duty to Cross-Report Needs to Be a Two-Way Street................................................................382

C. The Need for Mandatory Psychological Evaluation and Treatment.........................................................................385

V. Conclusion...........................................................................389

I. INTRODUCTION

In 2015, Tennessee lawmakers enacted the Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration Act, creating the nation's first statewide animal abuse registry.1 The registry, which was released on January 1, 2016, is a publicly accessible, online database of convicted animal cruelty offenders.2 Upon a person's first conviction for an animal abuse offense, the person's photo, name, and any other identifying information deemed necessary by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") will be listed on the state's public registry for two years.3 A subsequent conviction will earn the offender five years on the registry.4 The bill was initially proposed in order to "take a stand against animal cruelty" by deterring acts of animal abuse, but some Tennessee lawmakers feel that the registry will prove to be an effective tool for protecting human victims as well.5

Over the last few decades, research studies and statistics have revealed the connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence, especially highlighting the relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence.6 Against this backdrop, many states have enacted laws aimed at detecting, preventing, and treating these often-interrelated forms of familial abuse.7 Tennessee's innovative registry has thrust the state into the spotlight, making it a trendsetter in the animal-law world.8 Tennessee is now in position to serve as a working model for other states hoping to bolster the strength and scope of protection of their animal cruelty laws.

This Note argues that Tennessee lawmakers should take this opportunity to improve the state's existing laws and increase protection for both animals and humans. Part II of this Note highlights the statistically proven link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Part III will discuss the nationwide, legislative response to this cyclical pattern of violence, focusing primarily on cross-reporting statutes and psychological evaluation and treatment provisions in animal cruelty laws. Part IV will examine the current status of Tennessee animal cruelty laws. Part IV will also propose two statutory measures that, if enacted, would increase protection of both animals and humans in Tennessee. First, Tennessee lawmakers should enact an inverse of the state's current crossreporting statute, which requires health and human services agencies to report signs of animal abuse observed during the course of their employment, by imposing a reciprocal duty to report on animal welfare agents who encounter signs of domestic violence while acting in the scope of their employment. …

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