2012-10-31 / Columnists

Pets Pets Pets

On November 7 at the Woodbury Country Club, the Honorable Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney will be the keynote speaker during the Last Hope Animal Rescue Fall Dinner. The District Attorney is expected to talk about the Animal Cruelty Unit (ACU) and hotline created by her office, as well as new legislation she helped draft to strengthen NYS animal cruelty laws.

Rice formed the ACU unit in February 2010 to handle cases involving animal cruelty, abuse and neglect. This unit takes on all felony and misdemeanor cases, including abandonment, severe physical abuse, domestic violence-related abuse and criminal neglect, such as food or water deprivation, lack of veterinary care or shelter, in addition to abuse connected to dog fighting rings. For many years law enforcement personnel and psychologists have stressed that animal abuse can be an indicator of other crimes, such as domestic violence, gang activity and child abuse.

Snoopy, rescued by ACU at Last Hope Snoopy, rescued by ACU at Last Hope Prior to the implementation of the ACU, the DA’s office relied on animal abuse referrals from the police and other law enforcement agencies. These cases averaged about two a year, but now with a separate ACU unit and hotline calls from the public, the DA’s office can proactively investigate situations and also prosecute many more cases.

After the first year, the number of prosecutions rose to 16; after two years (using figures until March 2012), there have been 40 arrests, including ten felonies, with the hotline fielding more than 700 complaints the first year and 1,200 calls after two years. Three hundred animals have been rescued.

Over the course of the first year, 61 percent of the calls pertained to dogs; 26 percent to cats and the rest to birds, farm animals and small animals. Cases may result in criminal prosecutions, educational outreach or referrals to other agencies like NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. ACU investigators have also inspected Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus while at Nassau Coliseum to monitor the treatment of the circus elephants.

Here are several ACU cases prosecuted or investigated:

*Two Elmont cousins were arrested twice in a dog fighting operation for chaining four dogs to trees, and then allowing a fifth dog to attack them. The dog victims became the “Hempstead Hopefuls”, the Pit Bulls adopted in 2011 by Tia Torres of Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls & Parolees.”

*Last month a jury found a Farmingdale couple guilty of misdemeanor animal neglect for starving their twoyear old Great Dane, “Zack” to death. The husband is a NYC police officer. They face up to a year in jail.

*In September a hotline tip led to the discovery of a neglected Lhasa owned by a Hempstead woman. The dog’s rear leg had a deeply, infected wound that went down to the bone caused by tight mats cutting into his flesh, similar to an imbedded collar injury. “Snoopy” spent a month recovering at Hempstead Town Shelter in the director’s office before going next door to Last Hope. Snoopy is now in a foster home, soon to be adopted, but the leg wound still requires daily care. The former owner faces up to a year in jail, if convicted.

Anyone who suspects that an individual is abusing, neglecting, or fighting an animal may anonymously report this to the Animal Crimes Unit’s hotline, (516- 571-ACHL), or make a report by e-mail to Animal- CrimesUnit@NassauDA.org.

In April 2012, District Attorney Rice joined Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R.-Merrick) and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D.-Manhattan) to announce new legislation (S6730 & A9917) that would modernize and strengthen NYS animal cruelty laws to provide animals with more protection while increasing penalties for offenders. If passed, animal abuse would be a crime under penal law instead of Agriculture & Markets.

In addition, animal fighting, animal cruelty in the first degree, killing or injuring a police animal and harming an animal trained to help a person with a disability (eg. guide dog) in the first degree would all be Class D felonies, punishable with up to seven years in jail. There will also be enhanced charges for repeat offenders. The bill allows an offender to be charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree should they possess a dangerous or deadly weapon with the intent to use it unlawfully against an animal. Under current law, only humans are protected under this charge.

All these changes are commendable and needed for the voiceless and voteless victims but Albany moves slowly. Presently both bills were amended and referred to committee. Since the present two year legislative session will end on Dec. 31, it is likely that the legislation will have to be re-introduced next year.

The Last Hope Fall Dinner at Woodbury Country Club, 884 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury is Wed. November 7 from 6 to 10 pm. Tickets are $75 per person which includes a sit-down dinner, open bar, slide show, live auction and raffle baskets. See www.lasthopeanimalrescue for more information.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Our poster dogs have sad tales this week. “Milo” #12-671 is a meek and mild four-year-old Min Pin turned in by an owner going to prison. The Sheltie/Dachshund duo puzzles everyone. These mature fellows #12-659/660 were picked up as strays in N. Amityville last week. They are definitely devoted to each other, but no one has come to claim them.

Cats: handsome orange tabby kitten #2-480.

Dogs: “Simon”- #12-647 brindle Mastiff mix; “Lenny” #12-576 blue-eyed Hound; “Snickers” #12-675- Peke/Shih tzu; “Soggy” #12-676 charcoal Shih tzurescued from under the dock at Belmont Lake; “Coco Chanel” #12-670 stray, tiny Poodle that needed to be cut out of a purple Halloween costume. Why?

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