Kate J. Kuligowski

New Mexicans need to push for an animal-abuser registry


THIS IS politico season, when New Mexico candidates actively solicit your votes along with your opinions. Grab this opportunity. It is the perfect time for all of us to inform and pressure these eager office-seekers to enact greater protection for our companion animals.
    New Mexico has a lengthy, tragic history of animal abuse. Our residents actually have it within their power to considerably lessen the numbers of these incidents within our state by establishing a shared data base of convicted animal abusers. This information is currently difficult to find and not shared among city, county, and state jurisdictions in New Mexico, and thus cannot be used to screen adopters at animal rescues and shelters.
    The evidential link between animal and domestic abuse is well established, and is often referred to as the “Deadly Link/Triangle.” Usually the cycle of abuse continues when children who were victims become willing participants in the same type of animal abuse to which they were exposed. New Mexico ranks sixth in the nation for child abuse deaths, with more than 32,000 cases of child abuse reported annually.
    According to social service agencies, 83 percent of families with a history of animal abuse are at risk for child abuse or neglect, a link further supported by the finding that 73 percent of domestic violence victims in New Mexico report that their pets have been threatened, tortured, or killed by their abuser. Statistics show that most family members convicted of child abuse have also abused animals. In two-thirds of these cases, it was an abusive parent who killed or injured a pet. And in one-third of these cases, child victims continued the cycle by abusing pets themselves.
    As many animal rescuers know, our state laws against animal cruelty are no deterrent to abusers. New Mexico has been ranked among the worst five states in the nation for legal protections for animals. Unlike many other states, New Mexico legislators have also failed to pass legislation instituting cross-reporting between law and social service agencies, so prompt collaborative investigations could link child abuse reports with possible animal cruelty.
    There is a model program in existence for convicted animal abusers, created by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Known as the Offender Registration and Community Notification law, it mandates registration of animal abusers, similar to laws requiring registration of sex offenders. ALDF also has created a national Do Not Adopt Registry, which compiles animal abuse conviction data into a single data base available nationwide.
    States and municipalities that have established these registries prohibit offenders on the list from having any contact with animals for a minimum of five years. Animal shelters, pet breeders, rescue groups, pet stores, and animal adoption groups are prohibited from adopting, fostering, or selling animals to those on the list.
    Chris Green, ALDF director of legislative affairs, says that despite loopholes and drawbacks, such a law will prevent hoarders from visiting multiple shelters to acquire animals, and is an excellent start to addressing the problem that provides immediate protection.
    I extend an invitation to residents of a state considered “easy prey” for animal abusers to take a giant compassionate step, and encourage our legislators to introduce and pass a mandatory Do Not Adopt Registry. Contact your local lawmaker now, and be part of making New Mexico a less abusive state.
Kate Kuligowski is a long-time animal rescuer and former Education Director for Animal Humane of New Mexico and Watermelon Mountain Ranch. She recently published Our Most Treasured Tails: Sixty Years of Pet Rescue, a finalist in the 2014 NM/Arizona Book Awards. Contact her at