Capital NY: Lawmakers (And Pets) Gather to Call for Animal-Abuse Registry

Greg Ball

May 28, 2014

By: Will Brunelle

ALBANY—Hundreds of animal-rights activists gathered at the legislative office building Wednesday morning to listen to lawmakers and advocates call for a statewide animal-abusers registry and tougher penalties for abuse.

The event is held every year, and is put together by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco. The event is centered around giving attention to New York animal advocacy groups and rescue organizations, and highlighting both the successes and failures of animal rights legislation for the year. The event sees high attendance from legislators on both sides of the aisle, due to its largely nonpartisan nature and agreeable politics.

This year, Tedisco was joined by Senator Greg Ball and roughly a dozen other state legislators, including Senator Dean Skelos, the Senate majority leader. Most of the attending legislators brought along their own pets: Tedisco brought his corgi, Gracie, and Ball brought his silver labrador, Tito.

“The New York State legislature today has gone to the dogs,” Tedisco said, to a reaction of groans and quiet laughter.

He said that the event is one of the best days in state politics, because it presents an opportunity for legislators who are typically rivals to come together.

“We may be a little crazy,” Ball said, “but we’re the first line of defense for our neighbors against anyone who would harm a hair on the head of any of these beautiful animals.”

Ball, among many other speakers, said multiple times that domestic abusers and serial killers often begin their crimes by harming animals, and that how individuals treat animals is a good indicator of their character.

Ball’s silver lab Tito spent the event wrestling with Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin’s tiny French bulldog Batman.

All of the event’s earliest remarks were delivered in voices raised loud enough to drown out the snorting and snoring of Assemblyman Joe Borelli’s English bulldog Winston, who faced the wrong way for every photo-op. 

Steve Caporizzo, of News 10’s “Pet Connection,” spoke at length about how far New York still has to go for issues of animal rights, despite its improvements in recent years.

“We’ve come a long way since Buster in 1999,” Caporizzo said, referring to the case of a brutally tortured and killed dog, for whom the animal abuse prevention law “Buster’s Law” is named. But the law isn’t strong enough, Caporizzo said as he discussed a recent case.

“It’s pathetic; let’s make it four years and $10,000,” Caporizzo said, calling for the maximum sentences to be doubled.

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett spoke briefly about her current bill to create a statewide registry of animal abusers, to make it possible to track abusers as they move from one jurisdiction to the next. Currently, shelters cannot make sure that a potential adopter is not a convicted animal abuser.

“Right now, when you go county to county, you don’t know if you’ve got somebody with a history of abuse,” Barrett said.

Senator Phil Boyle spoke about his “Beagle Freedom Law,” which would force companies and agencies that perform testing on animals to send the animals to no-kill shelters and rescues once their testing is concluded.

Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal both spoke about legislation to allow local governments to regulate breeders, in an attempt to prevent the continuing operation of “puppy mills,” breeding operations designed to churn out puppies for sale with no concern for the parents’ or puppies’ health.

Rosenthal is also sponsoring legislation that would allow transportation of companion animals on evacuation vehicles during disasters and emergencies; Rosenthal has previously mentioned that many people refused to evacuate during Hurricane Sandy because they were not allowed to bring their pets with them.

A few speakers, including Rosenthal and Tedisco, referenced the then-ongoing “Albany bear” incident, which had Department of Environmental Conservation officers in a standoff with a black bear who had climbed into an Albany tree early Tuesday morning. The legislators called for the bear’s capture and release without harm, but the D.E.C. was simultaneously releasing a statement that said the bear had fallen from the tree and would be taken to a D.E.C. facility to be killed. (ARTICLE)