On Animal Advocacy Day, Griffo backs measures to protect pets from harm, abuse

As the New York State Legislature participated in the seventh annual Animal Advocacy Day Tuesday, June 6, Sen. Joseph Griffo joined the State Senate in passing several measures to further protect animals and pets from harm and abuse.

The Animal Advocacy Day bills passed Tuesday build upon the Senate’s commitment to protecting pets and other wildlife by strengthening Buster’s Law, cracking down on animal fighting and improving oversight for animal shelters, among other measures, Senator Griffo said. The 2017-2018 State Budget includes $5 million for the creation of a Companion Animal Capital Fund – a first-of-its-kind fund that would provide humane societies, nonprofits, and municipal shelters with grants for capital projects through a competitive application process.

“For many of us, our pets are just like family and are treated with the love, compassion and dignity that they deserve,” said State Senator Joseph Griffo, R-Rome. “We protect our pets as if they were one of our own, and we as a society must never allow these innocent animals to be exploited and treated as if their lives don’t matter. As I join the Senate in passing these measures on Animal Advocacy Day, we are standing up for our vulnerable companions to ensure that we have the strongest laws possible to protect our pets from people who want to exploit and hurt them.”

The bills passed Tuesday by the Senate include:

Prohibiting violators of “Buster’s Law” from having a companion animal: Bill S2501 would prohibit a person convicted of “Buster’s Law” from owning or possessing a companion animal unless authorized by court order, after appropriate psychiatric or psychological testing. Requiring a psychiatric evaluation will help identify behavior problems and ensure more animals are not abused.
Increasing the penalty for multiple convictions of animal cruelty: Bill S299 would increase the penalty for multiple convictions of torturing, killing or failing to provide sustenance to an animal to a felony, if convicted within five years from the date of a prior conviction. This will also help protect people as well because animal cruelty is often linked to violence against humans.

Requiring more inspections for pet dealers: Bill S302 provides for more frequent inspections of pet dealers which have been charged with or convicted of violations relating to cats and dogs. It requires the Department of Agriculture and Markets, upon the filing of a charge against a pet dealer, to immediately inspect the premises and continue to inspect the premises every two weeks thereafter until a final disposition of the charges. Should the pet dealer be convicted, inspections would be required quarterly.

Criminalizes bringing a minor to an exhibition of animal fighting: Bill S1432 would criminalize knowingly causing a minor to attend an exhibition of animal fighting. It can be extremely harmful for children to witness animal fighting. It not only damages their emotional development, but often leads the child to become abusive, anti-social, less empathetic, and desensitized to abhorrent social behavior.

Designating animal fighting as an enterprise-crime-eligible offense: Bill S594 would define animal fighting as a criminal act when referring to enterprise corruption. By making animal fighting an enterprise-crime-eligible offense, law enforcement and prosecutors will have more tools available to combat this serious problem.

Expanding tools available to stop animal fighting: Bill S611 places animal fighting on a list of crimes eligible to seek a warrant to conduct electronic eavesdropping or video surveillance.

Closing loophole in the regulation of pet dealers and shelters: Bill S5599 would require not-for-profit shelters to register with the state. Currently, not-for-profit shelters are not required to register with the state or obtain a license to operate.  The concern is that there is no accountability for how animals in these not-for-profit shelters are cared for and no reliable records for where the animals came from.

Preventing animal abusers from working at animal shelters: Bill S2937 prohibits persons convicted of animal cruelty from being a dog or animal control officer, or working at an animal shelter, pound, humane society, animal protective association, or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Improving shelter care for dogs: Bill S5515 would require impounding organizations to examine the animal and provide care and treatment to relieve pain and suffering, including necessary emergency veterinary care and treatment, parasite control and appropriate vaccinations. The impounding organization must also provide proper shelter, food and potable water.

Examining the need for standards for the designation of therapy dogs: Bill S6565 would require the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to conduct a study regarding the necessity of standards for the certification, training, and evaluation of therapy dogs. Currently, there is no defined process for certifying therapy dogs in the State.

Reducing holding time for the adoption of stray cats:  Bill S177B would allow a duly incorporated Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, humane society, or any municipal pound to put unidentified stray cats who have been examined by a veterinarian up for adoption after 3 days. Cutting the holding time from 5 to 3 days will help reduce the spread of diseases, which is beneficial to both the animal and animal shelter.

Increasing the fine for abandoning an animal: Bill S1137 would increase the fine for animal abandonment from $1,000 to $2,000. This would help prevent abandoned animals from starving or freezing to death, breeding, spreading disease or being killed by other animals.

Clarifying regulations for dogs engaged in hunting or training: Bill S2900 provides that dogs engaged in hunting and training as authorized by the Environmental Conservation Law shall not be deemed to be running at large. This would help prevent dogs from unnecessarily entering the municipal animal shelter system if an officer finds a hunting dog and can locate the owner before taking the dog to the shelter.

Establishing an income tax credit for owners of service dogs: Bill S5938A would establish an income tax credit of up to $1,000 for the owners of service dogs. Service dog is defined as a dog that is a service, guide, hearing, or seeing, or is under the control of the person using or training the to do work or perform tasks to benefit an individual with a disability.

In addition to the above bills, the Senate has also already passed several other bills this year that include:

Kirby & Quigley’s Law: Bill S1680 would expand the definition of aggravated cruelty to animals to include harm to companion animals during the commission of a felony. Violating this measure would be punishable with two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Extending orders of protection to pets of victims of domestic abuse: Bill S2167 would give the court discretion to forbid contact between the abuser and any pet that is cared for by a victim.

Exempting dog license fees for deployed active military members’ dogs: Bill S839 allow municipalities the option to waive a licensing fee for an active military member’s dog when they are deployed.

Enacting the Elephant Protection Act: Bill S2098A would prohibit the use of elephants in entertainment acts. The measure is meant to safeguard all elephants from the physical and psychological harm potentially inflicted upon them by living conditions, treatment, and cruel methods that are necessary to train elephants to perform.

Establishing March 13 as “K9 Veterans Day”: Bill S216 designates March 13 of each year as “K9 Veterans Day” in this State.

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