Animal Advocacy Day shows widespread, bi-partisan support for passing tougher animal protection bills
A tragedy that befell a Montgomery County family earlier this year is opening the public’s eyes to animal abuse and pressuring legislators to pass more protections for companion animals. Denise Krohn of the town of Florida, came home one day in February to find her home broken into, her possessions stolen, and worst of all, her two dogs brutally murdered, laying in a pool of blood.
“It was a tragedy beyond comprehension” Krohn said. “Animals are members of your family, they are just as much a part of it as your children.”
Krohn’s tragic story is grabbing the attention of lawmakers as she and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, are working closely to pass animal rights legislation, most notably “Kirby and Quigley’s Law” (A.1596/S.2936).
Named after Krohn’s dogs, this bill would expand the definition of aggravated cruelty to animals to include harm to a companion animal during the commission of another felony. Having already passed in the Senate, Kirby and Quigley’s Law is sponsored by Tedisco and Sen. Phil Boyle, R-Bay Shore. It currently resides in the Assembly Codes Committee.
Krohn, motivated from her personal experience, is dissatisfied with the “political games” that she says are being played as some legislators are voting against proposed animal rights bills solely because they are being sponsored by Republicans. Krohn says she is dedicated, despite minor, petty opposition, to pass Kirby and Quigley’s Law, saying, “I just hope that telling my experience will lead to this bill passing so it can hopefully prevent others from having to go through what I did.”
Krohn has been holding vigils in the Assembly Chamber to pressure lawmakers to pass Kirby and Quigley’s Law. She also joined hundreds of pet owners, animal rights activists, police and prosecutors and lawmakers, many of whom brought their own pets to the Well in the Legislative Office Building last week for the sixth annual Animal Advocacy Day. The advocates lobbied lawmakers throughout the Capitol to show their displeasure with the lenient laws in New York state which they say don’t do enough to protect animals and their safety.
The annual event, hosted by Senators Boyle, and Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, and Assemblyman Tedisco, consisted of numerous events, speeches, and presentations to further spread awareness of the importance animals have in people’s lives and the need to strengthen state laws to better protect them.
New York state has been a leader in passing animal protection laws, including Buster’s Law, which created the felony category of “aggravated cruelty to animals,” punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The law was named after an 18-month-old tabby cat that had been doused with kerosene and burned to death by a Schenectady teen. Prior to this bill becoming law, animal cruelty resulted in only misdemeanor penalties, if any charges were imposed at all.
Since the 1997 arrest that inspired the creation of Buster’s Law, the perpetrator who abused that helpless cat has been imprisoned for various crimes, including attempted rape, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment of a 12-year-old girl.
“We have an obligation as a government to protect all members of our family, including those who have no voice,” said Tedisco. “Unfortunately, there are some individuals who fail to see the value of our companion animals, resulting in animal abuse, cruelty and neglect, which occur far too often.”
In addition to Kirby and Quigley’s Law, another key bill has received bi-partisan support.
Bill S.2935/A.2484, sponsored in the Assembly by Didi Barrett, D-Hudson, and in the Senate by Boyle, is a bill linked to “Buster’s Law,” which establishes a statewide registry of people convicted of animal abuse, much like a registry enforced on sex-offenders. According to Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Jed Painter — who leads that office’s Animal Crimes Unit — this new law would let animal shelters and pet stores know whether an individual has a history of abusing animals before selling that person a pet.
Painter noted that those who abuse animals are proven to be more likely to commit acts of domestic violence. “This bill would not only provide increased protection to animals, but would also establish a registry of persons who may be more inclined to inflict violent behavior on a human,” he said.
Two other pieces of legislation, introduced by Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island, both increase protections for dogs residing in a pound or shelter and aim to reduce euthanization.
The first bill (S.6974/A.10306) would require an animal shelter to search for a dogs’s owner by checking identification, social media and placing a photograph, general description and other identifying information on the Internet. If the owner cannot be located, the facility must make a reasonable effort to find adoptive parents for the animal before humanely euthanizing it.
The second bill (S.6975/A.10316) would require shelters to make dogs available for adoption for a reasonable time period of no less than 90 days before humane euthanization, unless a veterinarian certifies that the animal should be euthanized for health reasons.
The bipartisan event enabled animal supporters to network, share information and lobby their legislators to raise awareness of the need to protect pets and people from abuse. Over 50 exhibitors including rescues, shelters and animal advocacy groups took part.
In honor of Animal Advocacy Day, the Senate passed several other bills including:
- S.98-a, sponsored by Senator Phil Boyle, would require certain university research facilities who use dogs and cats for research purposes to offer them for adoption through private placement or a non-profit animal rescue and shelter organizations.
- S.7394-a, sponsored by Senator Sue Serino, would extend protections to the pets of victims of domestic abuse by giving the court discretion to forbid contact between the abuser and any pet that is cared for by the victim.
- S.1795, sponsored by Senator Patricia Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, would make it a misdemeanor if anyone allows a minor under the age of 16 years old to witness or attend an animal fighting event. This crime would be punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
- S.3451, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown,, would prevent animal abuse by raising the penalty for subsequent acts of cruelty such as torturing, killing or failing to provide sustenance to an animal, which occur within five years of a prior Class E felony conviction.
- S.4877, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach, R-Rochester, would require municipalities to try and notify owners of a deceased animal if the death occurred on a highway. Under the provisions of this bill, if the animal has a tag with the family’s contact information, a license number, or has a identification chip to scan, the state should make a reasonable attempt to notify the family using the contact information/chip registration as well as the issuer of the license.
- S.2102, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, would increase the penalties for keeping a companion animal in a vehicle during times of extreme hot or cold temperatures without proper ventilation or other protection. Extreme temperatures can put animals in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury. This measure would be punishable by an increased fine of $250-$500 for the first offense — raised from $50-$100 — and $500-$1,000 for a second and subsequent violations — raised from $100-$250).
- S.79, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, would prohibit people who are convicted of animal cruelty from working in positions that place them in direct control of animal care such as animal shelters.
- S.6264, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke, R-Fairport, would exempt dog license fees for deployed active military members’ dogs.
- S.3321, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, would allow domestic companion animals to board any commuter transportation operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in the event of a state of emergency and evacuation.