Animal abuse: We need better laws, better enforcement, and stronger penalties

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To the Editor:

The Jeanne Ryan case of abuse is horrifying, but unfortunately one of too many. There are a myriad of cases throughout New York state where animals suffer and/or die at the hands of their abusers, and said abusers walk away from the legal system without so much as a slap on the wrist. I saw this unfold in my personal life. A landscaper named Jay Testa entered my backyard without notifying me. I was at work and my petsitter had let my dogs out in the enclosed backyard while she tended to my horses. While the pet sitter was in the barn, he entered my backyard with his riding lawn mower. He mauled my Boxer, Daisy, slicing off her paw, and pulling her body underneath the lawn mower, as evidenced by scratches all over her body. He took off. My pet sitter came back up to the house to let the dogs back inside for the afternoon, and found Daisy collapsed in the yard, with her leg mangled and paw completely severed and left in the grass. I contacted the police, who filed charges of animal cruelty against him. He confessed to the police a week after the incident. A court date was set. After four postponements, Judge Kimberly van Haaster finally heard the case. The Orange County District Attorney tried the case, and Testa hired a public defender. He was issued 3 months of probation. My dog, Daisy, had to have her entire front leg amputated. She was 1 year old. She survived, but she is now three legged and being a Boxer, she is front-heavy. Life will always be harder for her. Her entire life has been compromised. Jay Testa destroyed her life and he received barely a slap on the wrist. This is only one of a slew of examples where a criminal of an animal gets away with a violent crime.

We need better laws, and better enforcement of those laws. I had advocated with the Humane Society of the United States for a bill called the "Consolidated Animal Crimes" bill, which would take animal crimes out from under the umbrella of the archaic and outdated New York Agriculture and Markets Law, and place them in the Penal Code. However, the New York Farm Bureau opposes any bill that would impose any additional regulation on farm/agricultural animals. (Horses are considered livestock under the current law, falling under the definition of farm animal). The NY Farm Bureau has money and power in Albany, which is why we will never see any changes to the laws.

It makes no sense that in a case where animals clearly suffered, that only the worst off are removed. When someone has a depraved mind, all innocents in that person's care must be removed. This is identical to a matter where there is an abusive parent — all of the children are removed from the harmful environment and placed into protective custody.

We need a law, pertaining to animals, which says, "all animals are to be removed from a property where one such animal was found to be abused and/or neglected."

Second, we need stronger penalties. I suggest mandatory prison sentence as well as fines for both misdemeanor and felony animal crimes. Leaving it to the discretion of the judges just lets the criminal off easy. I only know of one Judge in Ulster County who actually imposes appropriate sentences for animal crimes.

Third, we need better enforcement. We need a full time, permanent, Humane Law Enforcement officer for each county. We need a Special Prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney's office who only tries animal cruelty crimes. This is the structure with the Albany DA and Nassau DA, why not in Orange County?

Victoria Shade, Esq.


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