DA Rice, Advocates Call on NYS Legislature to Pass Sweeping Animal Crimes Reform Bill

Press Releases

Legislation would streamline and strengthen NY’s antiquated animal crimes statute.

Mineola, NY - April 7, 2014 - Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, was joined by national, statewide and local advocates today to urge the New York State Senate and Assembly to pass a wide-ranging bill that would reform animal crime statutes to help police, prosecutors, and judges more efficiently and effectively arrest, charge, and sentence animal abusers.

“When most of New York’s animal crimes laws were put on the books, women could not vote, there were no traffic lights and burglary wasn’t considered a crime unless it happened at night,” DA Rice said. “It’s long overdue that we update and reform these laws to align with today’s society and to make sure that people who commit crimes against defenseless animals face the accountability and tough consequences that their crimes demand.”

The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill (CACB) was authored by DA Rice’s office and introduced in 2012 as part of her ongoing efforts to protect animals and prosecute animal abuse cases.

Currently, most animal crimes in New York are an antiquated series of unclassified misdemeanors and felonies inappropriately tucked away in the state’s Agriculture & Markets Law.

The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill would greatly assist in the arrest, prosecution and sentencing of animal abusers by:

  • Making the law more accessible to arresting officers.  Currently, police officers are required to be trained on the state’s Penal Law, but not its Agriculture & Markets Law.  Officers also typically have ready access to Penal Law handbooks, but not A&M Law.  The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill ensures that arresting officers have a more thorough grasp of the state’s animal crimes law when responding to a call or a crime scene and needing to decide whether or not to make arrests.
  • Streamlining the language of the law so that it’s more clear and easy to understand.
  • Aligning the practice of fingerprinting and DNA collection in order to assist in investigations and prosecutions.  In the current A&M Law, animal crimes misdemeanors are generally not subject to fingerprinting or DNA collection, which is automatic under the Penal Law.  Moving animal crimes to the Penal Law would align them with other crimes.
  • Strengthening penalties against animal abusers.  Current maximum sentences for felony animal cruelty or felony dogfighting (both unclassified felonies) are 2 and 4 years in prison, respectively, with no increase in sentence for repeat offenders.  Under the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, those crimes become D felonies, which feature a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison, and repeat offenders can be exposed to increased prison time due to prior convictions.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, the Senate sponsor of the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, said: “I urge my colleagues to support this bill to help law enforcement better protect animals from cruelty, neglect, and abuse.  I thank DA Rice for leading the way in the effort to pass these sweeping and much-needed reforms.”

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the Assembly sponsor of the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, said: “I have long championed the need to strengthen and improve New York State's humane laws, and today marks a major step forward in that effortwith the introduction of my Assembly bill. This bill represents a major overhaul of the way that we address animal cruelty in New York State as it will move the animal cruelty provisions of the law from Agriculture and Markets Law into the Penal Code.In addition, it will also update some arcane sections of law from as far back as the late 1920s and help to streamline the prosecution of these offenses by redefining some crimes and creating new ones altogether.In doing so, we will ensure that heinous acts against animals are treated with the seriousness they deserve by law enforcement and the courts.The bill is comprehensive in scope, and will help to provide prosecutors with critical tools to more effectively try cruelty cases.DA Rice and her team have been leaders on animal welfare, and I look forward to working with them and with Senator Lanza to enact this bill into law.”

Scott Heiser, the Criminal Justice Program Director of the national Animal Legal Defense Fund, said: “New York’s current animal cruelty laws are antiquated, confusing, and weak.  They need to be modernized and strengthened to ensure true accountability for those who prey on voiceless victims.  Animal Legal Defense Fund applauds District Attorney Rice for her enduring and exemplary leadership in working to pass these important amendments.”

Brian Shapiro, New York State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, said: “There is a growing public consensus on the need to crack down on serious animal related crimes. However, effective enforcement is often complicated by the fact that New York's anti-cruelty statutes have been placed out of reach in the state's Agriculture & Markets Law, which is unfamiliar territory for most police agencies, prosecutors and judges. The Humane Society of the United States has made passage of the CACB a priority for the 2014 legislative session. We applaud DA Rice and the District Attorney's Association of the State of New York for supporting this important legislation.”

Joan Phillips, Director of the Animal Lovers League of Glen Cove, said: “The Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill needs to be passed now.  We need to throw out the outdated and confusing laws and replace them with this new and clearly-worded verbiage.  Animal abuse is a crime, and it's time that our laws define it as such and enable proper enforcement and prosecution.  I fervently urge our legislators to pass this bill, and the public to support it.  Please show the country that New York is stepping to the forefront of protecting the voiceless victims of animal cruelty.”

Last month, DA Rice, as president of the District Attorneys Association, wrote to legislative leaders urging them to pass the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, which reforms laws that, in some cases, have not been substantially changed since the mid-19th century.

Last year, DA Rice started a Countywide ‘Council on Animal Protection & Safety’ in order to provide a forum for local government and non-profit agencies in Nassau County to coordinate on efforts to curtail and prosecute animal crimes.

In 2012, DA Rice was named one of the “Top Ten Animal Defenders” in the country by the Animal Legal Defense Fund for her creation of her office’s Animal Crimes Unit, the office’s first specialized unit dedicated entirely to the investigation and prosecution of animal crimes.

Members of the public can report animal crimes directly to DA Rice’s Animal Crimes Unit in four ways:

1. By walking in to the DA’s Criminal Complaint Unit at 272 Old Country Road, Mineola, N.Y.
2. By calling the DA’s 24 hour Animal Crimes Tipline at (516) 571-2245
3. Via Internet complaint form at www.nassauda.org
4. Via email to AnimalCrimesUnit@nassauda.org

The public should always call 911 in cases of active emergencies or imminent danger.

Attached: Photo of Ariella, a friendly and quiet 7-8-year-old Chihuahua mix up for adoption at the Animal Lovers League.  For more information, call the Animal Lovers League at (516) 676-5913.

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