Two years ago, a dog named Bella was beaten to death. Her abuser tied a zip tie around her neck, stuffed her into a garbage bag, and beat her with a metal shovel. Bella’s skull was fractured, and she was euthanized due to her severe injuries. Despite the seriousness of the crime, the person responsible received four months in jail and no mental health counseling – a critical component in breaking the cycle of violence.
Outdated Cruelty Laws
Due to New York’s badly outdated animal cruelty laws, stories like Bella’s aren’t unique. New York was once at the forefront of animal protection; it was the first state in the country to enact a cruelty law. But in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s most recent animal protection laws ranking report, it came in at a dismal #33, below states like Arkansas and West Virginia. One of the problems with New York’s animal cruelty laws is that they are located in the Agriculture & Markets Code, not the Penal Code with other serious crimes.
Other laws in the Ag & Markets section deal with things like hay, grapes, and ice cream manufacturers. That’s not where violent crimes against animals belong. Moving the animal cruelty laws to the Penal Code isn’t just a technicality – it would have real benefits for both humans and animals. Most criminal judges and defense attorneys aren’t familiar with Ag & Markets because the vast majority of their work involves the Penal Code. Moving the laws would also better equip law enforcement officials to address animal cruelty. Police officers learn about the Penal Code during their training at the police academy, and they keep a copy of it in their squad cars.
Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal is leading the charge to update New York’s animal cruelty laws with Bella’s Bill, A 342, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is behind her every step of the way. Bella’s Bill would not only transfer animal cruelty to the Penal Code, it would empower judges to order mental health counseling for certain offenders and help prevent future violent acts. Considering the strong link between animal cruelty and violence against humans, providing mental health counseling protects humans and animals alike.
Right now, the New York legislature is working on finalizing its budget. Other bills, like Bella’s Bill, won’t begin moving until later this spring. But the Animal Legal Defense Fund still needs your help now! If you live in New York, please contact your Assemblymembers (find your legislators) and ask them to support Bella’s Bill. You can also sign our open letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to update New York’s cruelty laws. Together we can make New York a safer place for animals.
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