Lawmakers hold hearing on strengthening animal abuse laws
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - They don't have the ability to dial 911 and they can't testify in court, so state lawmakers are stepping in to help out abused animals get protection and justice against those who would harm them. Senator Joe Griffo joined members of the State Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday at a public hearing held at the State Office Building in the City of Utica. Officials heard testimony from law enforcement to see if they felt the laws on animal abuse are strict enough. What they want is a law that would bring increased prison time for abusers, make it easier to prosecute animal abuse cases, and really have the current animal cruelty law completely rewritten. Speaking to the committee, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara and Utica Police Chief Mark Williams specifically referenced the increase in animal abuse cases in our area such as the West Utica man accused of starving six dogs to death, and the Utica couple that allegedly neglected several mink. Currently, offenses like dog fighting and animal cruelty are considered violations of the "agriculture and markets" law, something authorities say are extremely outdated and often hard for officers to even find. However, authorities say that if lawmakers add those violations to the penal law, the punishment could jump from a maximum of two years to seven years in prison and make it easier for police when it comes to punishing for the crime. "Right now, the agri market law is very difficult to read and I agree, police don't typically have that on them and we could make this a lot easier and also provide rights to our animals," District Attorney Scott McNamara said. "By moving it to the penal law, to the main law that we use every day, which is the penal law, makes it simpler, and more easy to use," said Utica Police Chief Mark Williams. "Finding laws in penal law is what gets most attention in training." When asked by the Agriculture Committee what he'd like to see changed in the current agriculture and markets law, District Attorney McNamara said he wants animal abuse laws not just changed, but completely rewritten, similar to how the courts handle crimes with people. When McNamara said that, the roughly 100 people that filled the public hearing applauded. Any written testimony can be submitted to the office of Senator Patricia Richie, Atten: Todd Kusnierz, Senate Director for Agriculture Committee at email@example.com.