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2013-06-12 / Columnists

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A pony, a parrot and a pack of pups inside the NYS Capitol? Yes, they were all in the Well of the Legislative Office Building in Albany on June 4 for the third annual NYS Animal Advocacy Day, an opportunity for lawmakers and animal supporters to collaborate on pending legislation to protect companion animals and awareness for the need to do more.

It was a “Bring Your Pet to Work Day” as politicians paraded their furry and feathered best friends alongside animal rights activists, rescuers and fellow animal lovers. One of the founders of the special event, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, showed off his Corgi, while Senator Phil Boyle brought along “Livvy,” his Toy Fox Terrier.

The day began with the reading of a letter by wellknown animal protector Bob Barker (of TV’s “Price is Right” fame), who will turn 90 years old this year. Barker praised the innovative initiative in NYS, saying, “When New York sneezes, the rest of the country gets a cold. You are setting a great and necessary precedent with Animal Advocacy Day.”

NYS Animal Advocacy Day 2013 in Albany NYS Animal Advocacy Day 2013 in Albany Also present were “Hudson” and “Pearl,” the surviving “railroad pups.” In Sept. 2012, railroad workers found a trio of Pit puppies, only three weeks old, with their paws nailed to the tracks. They were rushed to the hospital but one of the sisters didn’t make it.

The other sister, Pearl, lost a few toes, while Hudson was fitted with different size prosthetics for his missing limb as he grew. Both dogs are in training to become therapy dogs to visit children and amputees in hospitals. Hudson’s veterinarian, who designed his artificial paw, came to Animal Advocacy Day too.

In 2011, Tedisco and Senator Greg Ball first sponsored NYS Animal Advocacy Day as a rallying force to strengthen “Buster’s Law,” passed in 1999 and created the felony category of “aggravated cruelty to animals” punishable by up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Prior to this bill becoming law, animal cruelty resulted in misdemeanor penalties or no charges at all.

“Buster’s Law” was inspired by the 1997 torture killing of a tabby cat set on fire in Schenectady. Buster’s killer, then a 16-year-old convicted felon, was later convicted of crimes against a 12-year-old mentally disabled girl. He is serving time at Attica. This case is an example of a “bridge crime”- someone abusing animals who moves on to hurting humans.

It is long known by law enforcement and psychiatrists that animal cruelty is often a warm-up for heinous crimes against people. Unfortunately, animal cruelty penalties are still not harsh enough, reinforcing the need for Animal Advocacy Day and the passage of many current bills.

Here are a few important ones: *(S.1776, A.775A) Known as the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, it is the same bill with a new number discussed in “Pets” Beacon 11/1/12 regarding Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s Animal Cruelty Unit. This bill would modernize and strengthen NYS animal cruelty laws to provide animals with more protection while increasing penalties for offenders. If passed, animal abuse would be a crime under penal law instead of Agriculture & Markets. The current law needs more teeth. These changes would emphasize the seriousness of animal abuse. Our police and courts are used to working within penal code, not antiquated agricultural rules. The bill has strong LI support including sponsor Senator Charles Fuschillo and co-sponsor Senator Boyle, but it is still in committee. *(S.2987, A.239) An Animal Cruelty and Animal Fighting Database would be available to law enforcement, shelters and humane agencies. This legislation would make repeat offenders less likely to obtain potential animal victims. The problem is that those on the list need to be convicted, and with present law, it is hard to get a conviction. Would past offenders, especially the most grievous (like the Medford Mom who allegedly forced her children to kill pets or the dermatologist with the 115 dogs dying from dehydration) be included? We need S.1776 passed first to make S.2987 more comprehensive. Senator Boyle is a co-sponsor. This bill is in committee. *(S.2566, A.4514) Sponsored by Tedisco and Ball, this bill would prohibit anyone convicted of violating “Buster’s Law” from possessing a companion animal unless they have undergone a psychiatric evaluation. A.4514 removes horses from the definition of “farm animal” and re-classifies them as “equine companions” to offer horses more cruelty protections. The miniature horse rescued from neglect at the June 4 event represented the group Safe Horse New York, which focuses on horse welfare and stopping the sale and shipping of horses to slaughter.

The equine portion of this bill was inspired by an upstate horse named “Skye” that was stabbed to death through her blanket in 2008. The case was not subject to felony prosecution under “Buster’s Law” because horses are still considered “farm animals,” rather than “companion animals.” Skye’s killer was sentenced to three to seven years but that was because of additional burglary charges, not animal cruelty. Assemblyman Tedisco has been working to get “Skye’s Law” passed since 2010.

Perhaps I’ve grown impatient in my old age, but we need to urge our state legislators to pass these important bills and make them the law.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter: “Ebony” #13- 309 is a seven-year-old purebred German Shepherd who thinks the Adirondack chair in the shelter yard was put there just for her. “Newton” #13-317 is a young Chihuahua mix found by a bus driver in N. Amityville. Dogs: “Samson” #13-290- Siberian Husky; “Buster” #13- 21- Pit mix with Shepherd coloring. Cats: “Bobby” #3-143- friendly senior; many kittens, spayed/neutered, ready for homes.

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