On January 7th when wind chills dipped to 20 below zero, neighbors in a rural part of Madison County complained to Sheriff's deputies about a herd of about 24 buffalo which had been kept in a small open pen with no shelter.
M adison County Undersheriff John Ball told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, the owner of the buffalo lives in a different county and would not identify him. Ball said "We go by what the law requires...we can't say they're being abused."
D ee Schaefer of the Wanderers Rest Animal Shelter became aware of the complaints about the buffalo, but says when it comes to livestock, many animal cruelty laws do not apply. "The laws, they're archaic they really are for New York State... As a shelter for livestock and companion animals,dogs and cats, there's nothing we can do." Schaefer said.
O nondaga County Animal Cruelty Investigator Paul Morgan was contacted by sheriff's investigators but Morgan says the New York State Agriculture and Markets law mainly requires food, water and access to medical care, but does not require shelter for livestock. "We're looking at buffalo or any type of cattle, even horses, there is no shelter laws out there for those animals. The law does not say those animals must have shelter."
Morgan agrees with Schaefer that the cruelty law in New York are archaic. "It is. It really needs to be updated. It needs to be tweaked a little bit in a way that things are set in each law."
D ownstate Assemblywoman Joan Millman has introduced what she calls the "Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act'. For two years the legislation has been tied up in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. Millman's bill states the purpose of the act is "to safeguard farm animals from inhumane treatment or living conditions..."
T he act is mainly aimed at large factory farms classified as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The New York Farm Bureau feels the farm animal cruelty act is unnecessary. Spokesman Steve Ammerman says, "It's certainly well intentioned because they have animal care at heart, and so do our farmers. They pay very close attention that the animals are well cared for."
When asked about the buffalo and whether there should be a provision requiring shelter for livestock, Ammerman replied, "It may depend on the situation, but a lot of farm animals live outside. Animals in general in the wild live outside, But I think Ag and Markets being able to regulate animal welfare is really the best place for it."
Ammerman was referring to efforts by some animal rights organizations to remove cruelty laws from the jurisdiction of the State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Animal Cruelty Investigator Paul Morgan feels moving such regulations into the state's penal laws would clear up a lot of ambiguity and stiffen penalties for animal abusers. "Y ou charge somebody with Section 353 of the Ag and Markets law, which could be lack of medical care, food, water starvation or whatever. Those types of situations, it's a misdemeanor. You move them to penal law, they might become felonies." Morgan says.
Ammerman says the Farm Bureau would oppose such an effort "We believe it should stay put in Agriculture and Markets because Ag and Markets knows the needs of livestock. The needs of livestock are very different from the needs of a companion animal like somebody's cat or dog."
A mmerman sees such attempts to crack down on care of farm animals as examples of a disconnect in today's society between urban and rural lifestyles. " M ore and more as each generation goes by, people are becoming further removed from farming and the ways of farm life. So when somebody who has no experience with farming comes out and says this is the way you should run your farm, this is how you should run your business, that could be very difficult for some farmers to understand."