New York looks to strengthen animal abuse laws

New York Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi urges reform in animal abuse laws at a public forum at Mohawk Community College.

Numerous incidents of animal abuse in Central New York have led to a revived effort from lawmakers and advocates to strengthen laws against animal cruelty, neglect and abuse.

According to a recent report published by the Animal League Defense Fund, New York ranks among the worst states for animal protection laws. Tonight, the Humane Society of the United States, elected officials and community members gathered for a public forum at Mohawk Valley Community College to try and change that.

In New York, animal abuse regulations fall under Market and Agriculture statutes, making it difficult for judges, police and prosecutors to punish to animal abusers.

"Some of these laws are over 50 years old," explained New York State Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi. "What we'd like to see happen is to have these laws moved over to penal law."

Relocating animal cruelty laws under the state's penal code would give law enfourcement the necessary tools to fully prosecute offenders.

Advocates of the Consolidate Animal Crimes Bill also want to see increased penalties for animal abuse.

"When they get into the court system [offenders] are just getting a slap on the wrist," said John Treen, shelter manager at Stevens-Swan Humane Society in Utica. "Probation or something like that. No serious jail time or serious charges are being brought up on these people."

"It really struck me when District Attorney Rob Maciol pointed out that people can get into more trouble for stealing something from a store than they can for killing an animal," said Verona Councilman Fritz Scherz. "That struck a nerve. How foolish is that that our laws are not designed to better address something like that?"

Brindisi first proposed similar legislation in 2012 but the bill was not able to progress. But after several high profile abuse cases in recent months, animal advocates are hopeful that their continued fight will pay off.