Lawmakers acting on more than a dozen new animal protection laws

Gazette photo by Jamie Fandl

The Senate is expected to take up measures Tuesday aimed at strengthening protections for animals and their owners.

The bills, expected to pass on the Legislature’s annual Animal Advocacy Day, would expand Buster’s Law, crack down on animal fighting, and improve oversight for animal shelters, among other measures.

“It’s hard to read a newspaper, watch the news or go on social media and not learn of yet another disturbing case of animal cruelty and neglect,” said Sen. Tedisco, co-chair of Animal Advocacy Day. “While we’ve made great strides in protecting our four-legged friends since the passage of the landmark Buster’s Law in 1999, there are still many miles to go in New York state to protect our pets and keep people safe.

“Animal cruelty is a bridge crime on the FBI criminal profile and those who are so dastardly as to harm our pets can and often do go on to hurt humans,” Tedisco added. “Animal Advocacy Day matters because it’s about more than just protecting our four-legged friends, it’s about keeping people safe.”

Gazette photo by Katelyn Cordero
Gazette photo by Jamie Fandl

The bills expected to pass Tuesday include:

  • Bill S.2501, sponsored by Senator James Tedisco, R-Glenville, which 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. Sponsors say requiring a psychiatric evaluation will help identify behavior problems and ensure more animals are not abused.
  • Bill S.299, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, which 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, the sponsors say.
  • Bill S.302, also sponsored by Senator Murphy, which would provide 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.
  • Bill S.1432, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, which would criminalize knowingly causing a minor to attend an exhibition of animal fighting. It can be extremely harmful for children to witness animal fighting, sponsors say, because 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.
  • Bill S.594, sponsored by Senator Phil Boyle, which 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, bill supporters say.
  • Bill S.611, also sponsored by Senator Boyle, would place animal fighting on a list of crimes eligible to seek a warrant to conduct electronic eavesdropping or video surveillance.
  • Bill S.5599, also sponsored by Senator Boyle, 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.
  • Bill S.2937, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, which would prohibit 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.
  • Bill S.5515, also sponsored by Senator Gallivan, which 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.
  • Bill S.6565, sponsored by Senator Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, which 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.
  • Bill S.177-b, also sponsored by Senator Marchione, which 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, sponsors say.
  • Bill S.1137, sponsored by Senator Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, which 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.
  • Bill S.2900, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young, R-Olean, would provide 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, sponsors say.
  • Bill S.5938-a, sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, would establish an income tax credit of up to $1,000 for the owners of service dogs. A “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.

Also expected to be taken up today is bill S.1712. Sponsored by Senator Tedisco, the bill would increase certain penalties for violating the prohibition of animal fighting and for aggravated cruelty to animals.

“For many New Yorkers, our pets are an extension of our families and as such, we have a responsibility to ensure that their health and safety remain a priority,” said Senator Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, Senate Co-Chair of Animal Advocacy Day. [This] is about giving voice to the needs of New York’s animals and ensuring that those who seek to exploit their vulnerability know that they will not be let off easily here in our state.”

Gazette photo by Katelyn Cordero
Gazette photo by Jamie Fandl

Bills the Senate has already passed this year include:

  • Kirby & Quigley’s Law (S.1680), sponsored by Sen. Tedisco, which 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.
  • Bill S.2167, sponsored by Sen. Serino, which would give the court discretion to forbid contact between the abuser and any pet that is cared for by a victim.
  • Bill S.839, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke, R-Fairport, would allow municipalities the option to waive a licensing fee for an active military member’s dog when they are deployed.
  • Bill S.2098-a, sponsored by Sen. Murphy, 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.
  • Bill S.216, sponsored by Senator Marchione, designates March 13 of each year as “K9 Veterans Day” in this state. The United States Army began training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps,” on March 13, 1942.

“Animal Advocacy Day is a wonderful annual event that brings the Legislature, law enforcement, and hundreds of pet owners and advocates together to raise awareness of important animal issues,” said Sen. Phil Boyle, R-Bay Shore, co-sponsor of Animal Advocacy Day. “Now more than ever, we are passing and enacting vitally important laws to protect our pets and hold those who are cruel to animals accountable to the highest extent of the law. We have accomplished so much in our fight to enhance animal safety and protections, and we will never stop working to create meaningful legislation that serves as a voice for the voiceless.”

Gazette photo by Jamie Fandl