For all other states, Phillips says, a ban can be requested by a prosecutor at sentencing, but is at the discretion of the judge. And there are limits to the sentence. First, the ownership/possession bans can last only as long as the term of probation. And second, although there have been "lifetime" bans on ownership, "who is going to oversee that for compliance?" asks Philips. In essence, while abusers are under probation supervision, it is easier to make sure that they do not obtain another animal.
But after that, she says, there is no oversight.
Databases: the holy grail of information?
What also adds to the inadequate protection of animals at the hands of recurring abusers is the remarkable absence of any central database listing animal cruelty crimes.
Thankfully, this might soon start to change. But making available comprehensive information on all the country's animal abusers is just as difficult as it sounds.
Beginning in 2016, the FBI will officially begin its collection of data on animal abuse, part of the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS): "Four types of animal abuse will be identified: simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (dog and cock fighting) and animal sexual abuse," explains Kaema Akpan, attorney at the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse at the National Sheriffs' Association.