State Senate Majority Leader Skelos; Champion for dogs, people who love them
By Mike Hudson
People convicted of animal cruelty in New York will be made to bear the burden of costs incurred by their crimes, under a new law signed last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The legislation generated headlines coast to coast over the weekend, as thousands of animal lovers vowed to push for similar legislation in their own home states on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
Typically, when an individual is charged with animal cruelty, the animals in his or her care are seized by law enforcement authorities and handed over to the SPCA, the Humane Society, a private shelter or a rescue organization while the case winds its way through the legal system, a process than can take a year or more.
Previously, the often considerable costs associated with the care and feeding of these seized animals were borne by the charitable organizations themselves. The best that could be hoped for was that, following a conviction, a lawsuit might be filed in an attempt to recoup expenses.
In 2010, for example, 73 horses and more than 50 cats were seized from an individual in Erie County and turned over to the county’s SPCA. It took nine months before there was a hearing in the case and, as of January of this year, the SPCA had spent more than $1.4 million caring for the sick and malnourished animals and managed to collect just $300,000 from the defendant in the case.
Under the new law, the SPCA could have moved immediately after the defendant's arraignment to have a hearing regarding payment.
“The financial burden of caring for many animals, often for lengthy periods of time, is forcing some organizations to stop assisting law enforcement with housing seized animals,” said state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. “Where there is no organization to care for seized animals, law enforcement is less likely to conduct seizures and animals remain in abusive situations and conditions.”
Skelos pointed out that humane organizations often lack the financial resources to hire attorneys to go after animal abusers, and under the new law they won’t have to. A provision in the legislation authorizes the district attorney prosecuting the cruelty case to file for relief on behalf of the organization housing the seized animals.
Skelos has a long history of advocating for stronger laws regarding animal cruelty. Earlier this year, he led the Senate in passing a bill that would require those convicted of felony animal abuse be added to a registry of animal abusers. The bill passed in the senate in June. However, it failed to garner the necessary support to pass the state assembly.
The failed bill would have also required anyone convicted of felony animal cruelty to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and would ban them from ever owning a pet again, a law that most observers see as hard to enforce.
More than a dozen states have introduced legislation to establish pet abuser registries, however.
Suffolk County is the first municipality to pass such a law.
Skelos was a supporter of Buster’s Law, enacted in 1999, which made animal cruelty in New York State a felony. The law was named after a cat that was doused in kerosene and lit on fire in 1997.
Last year, Skelos was instrumental in the passage of legislation that makes it easier for local municipalities to crack down on “puppy mills,” which provide retail pet stores with dogs and cats that are often malnourished, poorly cared for and diseased.
This bill provides improved standards of care that must be followed by pet dealers to improve the health, safety and well-being of the animals.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Dec 31, 2013