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Lawmakers looking to create stiffer penalties for pet thieves

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

New York lawmakers are now considering a bill that would send someone convicted of stealing a pet to prison for up to four years for felony grand larceny.

The State Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly Wednesday, and now it moves on to the Assembly for consideration.

Currently, the punishment for stealing a pet is a misdemeanor. Sponsors of the bill say this punishment should be toughened to meet the severity of the crime.

"It recognizes that this is serious," said Senator Joseph Griffo, who backed the bill. "Raise level to a felony from a misdemeanor and as a result, it gives more tools to local law enforcement and prosecutors in going after these types of situations.".

The crime would include stealing pets as bait for fighting dogs, for research, as pawns in domestic disputes, or stealing pets to then sell them. Many feel this punishment isn't about the price tag on pooches or felines, but about what they mean to families.

"When people talk about their animals, they have so much love for their animals. They become family members," said Jerry Kraus of the Stevens-Swan Humane Society. "So when you talk about someone stealing a dog or a cat from a family, it could be devastating or heartbreaking."

Many Senators agree and passed the bill overwhelmingly on Wednesday. Now it moves on to the Assembly, where there are many also in favor of the stricter punishments.

"Tougher penalties for pet thieves are necessary, because of the devastation it can cause families," said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. "You really can't put a price tag on the value of a pet."

Kraus hopes this new bill will also bring stricter punishment in animal abuse and neglect cases.

"In all cases, we certainly do want all of our legislators and our representatives to take a look at the laws, not only in just theft of pets, theft of dogs and cats, but also, let's take a look at the abuse cases. Let's take a look at toughening up those laws."

Senator Griffo says that with the recent animal abuse and neglect cases in our area, there are many proposals to bring a law in place for stricter punishment for abusers and that lawmakers are working on putting something together.

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