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New law will hold animal abusers financially responsible

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Gov. Cuomo signed a new bill into law that increases penalties for animal abusers. The passage comes on the heels of several local animal abuse cases that have created a public outcry for stricter laws.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill which holds animal abusers financially responsible for the pets they hurt or neglect, putting them one step closer on a long journey for tougher laws.

On Friday, which saw subzero temperatures, the Utica police took a neglected puppy off the streets and brought it to the Stevens-Swan Humane Society.

"Animal control officers bring them in. They're malnourished, they're freezing cold, they've got fleas and they've got worms. That's almost all of them," said Linda Fatata, development director.

It's an all too frequent sight for the Stevens-Swan Humane Society - a non-profit that took in over 2,000 animals in 2013, paying for all medical treatments, food and shelter.

"We will provide the care even if it means going into debt and we will ask the public to help us," said Fatata.

But local lawmakers say some shelters do turn animals away and as written in the bill: "If there are no resources to care for the animals once they are seized, law enforcement is less likely to conduct the seizures in the  first place."

So, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill requiring animal abusers to pay for their actions.

"Right now the shelters bear that responsibility. This will force those who have been identified as the abuser to pay for the cost of the shelter and the animal," said Sen. Joe Griffo, (R) 47th District.

"Hopefully, it means that we will start to see some reimbursement on some of these terrible abuse cases. I don't want to say we're going to get a lot of terrible abuse cases in, it's sad to see, but we will and getting some money to help towards that care gives us a chance to use our budget for other animals that need our care," said Fatata.

But, if no one is held accountable, shelters won't see the money.

"There are a lot of nuances here that have to continue to be worked out and that's why we continue to work on improving the laws that exist looking at new laws to protect animals," said Sen. Griffo.

The new law will go into effect in three months.

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