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Suffolk pushes ahead on Animal Abuse Offender Registry

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a measure Tuesday aimed at getting an Animal Abuse Offender Registry up and running after three years of delays.

The new measure, approved on an 11-5 vote, revises a 2010 law that named the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to run the website registry and instead allows the police department to select from among any animal-rights or rescue group to run the website.

The new law also requires those convicted of cruelty or animal abuse to be informed by the district attorney's office at sentencing that they must register at the local police station. The police will make the information available to the website, where offenders' names and addresses will remain for five years.

Officials say a half-dozen animal abusers have been convicted in the past three years, but no one has registered even though the existing measure requires offenders to register and pay a $50 administrative fee each year. Failure to do so make offenders liable to up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Legis. Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon) said he proposed the changes because the SPCA had long held off implementing the website, hoping to receive wider indemnification of its overall rescue and enforcement operations from the county. The county had only offered to indemnify the group in cases where the county provided incorrect information on abusers for the website.

Paul Llobell, representing the SPCA, maintained the group is ready to go, and the delay in implementing the website had nothing to do with the indemnification issue. He contended the group is the only one qualified to provide the registry service.

"We're ready to provide the service right now at zero cost to the county," he said, adding that opening the process could permit extreme groups to apply.

However, D'Amaro said the society let the registry "sit idle" and its last-minute offer "belies the last three years of history." He added, however, that the society is free to apply to police to run the website.

He said he hopes the new law will be signed quickly by County Executive Steve Bellone and that a request for proposals can be issued within 60 days. Once a group is chosen, he hopes the site can be up and running within 10 days.

A Bellone spokesman said the executive would sign the measure into law.

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