GOP lawmakers look to strengthen animal cruelty penalties
Malliotakis, Lanza pushing package of bills
New York State should be doing a better job of protecting animals, according to two Republican state lawmakers who are pushing for passage of a package of bills designed to increase the penalties for suspects committing cruelty to animals.
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) and state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-C-Staten Island) are working together to try to get the package of bills approved in their respective legislative houses.
The idea is to close legal loopholes that currently exist so that suspects who commit acts of cruelty toward animals can be punished to the full extent of the law, according to Malliotakis.
The legislation was prompted by a November 2014 incident in which a three-year-old dog identified as “Charlotte” was found on the side of the road on Staten Island, physically injured after being thrown from a car window, Malliotakis said. The Staten Island Advance reported that Charlotte was found battered inside a plastic bag. The dog was eventually placed in a loving new home.
One bill being championed by Malliotakis and Lanza would establish a new crime category, aggravated cruelty to an animal, that would be applied in cases where a person uses a weapon to cause extreme physical pain or serious injury to the animal.
The lawmakers have also introduced a bill that would broaden the existing statute regarding aggravated cruelty to animals to cover all animals, and not just “companion animals,” as is currently stated in the law.
Animals killed by hunters, animals killed in emergency situations, and livestock would not be affected by the proposed legislation.
Another bill would elevate the penalty for killing an animal while exhibiting cruelty toward that animal. Under current state law, the penalties are the same for causing serious physical injury and causing death to an animal. The penalty should be more severe if the animal is killed by the conduct exhibited by the defendant under the new legislation.
“As an animal lover and owner of two dogs, I will do everything I can to prevent animal cruelty, but you don’t need to feel some special affection toward animals to take issue with such unsettling behavior,” Malliotakis said in a statement. “Animal cruelty is often evidence of deeper, more serious issues within the person committing the crime that have led to similar crimes against humans.”
People who treat animals poorly often wind up with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, Malliotakis said. “This package of legislation will go a long way in protecting defenseless creatures, properly punishing those who seek to harm them and prevent them from committing similar acts again,” she said.
“Cruelty to our beloved pets, who cannot speak for themselves and often cannot protect themselves from the sick people who abuse them, is something that should not be tolerated.,” Lanza said.
Malliotakis and Lanza crafted the bills in close consultation with U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) during the time Donovan was serving as the district attorney of Staten Island.
“Protecting our vulnerable animals has always been an issue near and dear to my heart,” said Donovan. The DA’s office started an initiative last year, the Animal Neglect Prevention Program, to provide assistance to animal owners who are struggling financially. Under the program, owners whose animals are in need a veterinary care are able to work out payment plans with providers so that they can make sure the medical needs of their pets are not neglected.
“The Animal Neglect Prevention program my office implemented last year will help stave off neglect and abuse, but these bills are critical to helping crack down on people who commit it,” Donovan said.
Article was updated to reflect the fact that Dan Donovan is now a congressman.
Earlier version of article misstated the purpose of the Animal Neglect Prevention Program.
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