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EDITORIAL: Animal abuse registry rates low on list of Nevadans’ needs

The state of Nevada has no shortage of challenges, many of which are related to the lingering sluggish economy. The unemployment rate remains the highest in the country, at 9 percent (tied with Rhode Island). It’s even higher in Las Vegas, at 9.4 percent. Legislators must, first and foremost, look for ways to help the private sector put Nevadans back to work.

But that doesn’t involve enough heartstring tugging or pandering for votes.

So what we get is a bill proposal from state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, to create an animal abuse registry. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Sean Whaley, Nevadans convicted of intentional acts of animal cruelty would have their names included on the public registry and be banned from owning pets.

While no one in their right mind favors animal abuse, the registry is a massive overreach, creating a list of people who will be permanently and openly identified as criminals for life. Criminal registries, such as the sex-offender registry, are rightfully reserved for those considered an imminent and ongoing threat to public safety. We don’t have registries for lesser offenses because those crimes do not rise to that level.

Sen. Manendo’s proposal ostensibly elevates a crime against an animal to the level of a crime against a human. Animal rights activists use arguments that animal abuse is a precursor to human abuse, but that’s not necessarily so. And even if it were true, creating a registry of people who might commit violent crimes against people, but haven’t yet, is insane.

A similar proposal was brought up by Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, in the 2011 Legislature, and one of the reasons noted for the proposal not moving forward was the cost involved for government agencies to maintain the registry. Sen. Manendo’s proposal therefore calls on nonprofit groups to do that job, which sounds wonderful in that it takes the burden off taxpayers.

However, it puts the registry maintenance in the hands of animal groups that use political activism and agitation to raise money for their causes. In Southern Nevada, Nevada Political Action for Animals would be responsible for maintaining the registry under the provisions of Sen. Manendo’s bill. The Nevada Humane Society is considering taking on the responsibility in the northern part of the state. If nothing else, that creates a huge conflict of interest.

Enough with the animal bills already, or any other proposal that is almost strictly a feel-good measure. Too often, legislators at all levels think they aren’t doing their jobs unless they’re creating ever more laws, regulations and restrictions that further impinge on the public. It’s long past time to put the focus on legislation that helps all Nevadans. We all love our animals, but the state has more than enough issues to tackle that rate a higher priority than chasing the animal lobby’s vote.

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