Syracuse streamlines handling of animal abuse cases

Lea has spent over a year in a shelter as her owner stood trial for attacking her with a bayonet. Her owner, Francis Mason, initially refused to surrender her. Now released, she hopes to be adopted soon.

Syracuse has established a new system of handling animal abuse cases. In an effort to streamline the handling of animal cruelty trials, all cases will now be presided over by a single judge and assistant district attorney.

City of Syracuse Judge Stephen Dougherty and ADA Laura Fiorenza will now be assigned to all animal cruelty cases. Because these cases fall under agriculture and markets law, and not penal law, most judges and prosecutors are unfamiliar with how to handle them, leading to inconsistent outcomes.

â??By utilizing one judge and assigning one ADA to handle these cases, there will be a higher level of experience and knowledge of animal-related laws and penalties. This, in turn, will hopefully mean a quicker resolution to these cases,â?? said Nicole Heath, Facilitator of the CNY Animal Cruelty Task Force.

Unless owners are willing to surrender their animals upon arrest, victims of animal cruelty are kept in shelters for months, sometimes years as trials drag on. The new Animal Cruelty Task Force hopes that these changes will cut down on the amount of time pets spend in shelters.

â??As a result, animals would no longer experience deterioration in a shelter environment as a result of waiting many months or, at times, years for an outcome,â?? said Heath. â??There is also a savings to the taxpayer when cases are resolved in a timely manner. In addition, we hope that by imposing appropriate penalties for animal-related crimes, further criminal activity against both animals and people may be deterred.â??

Repeat offenders are also more likely to be recognized and dealt with accordingly under the new system.