Dear Governor Cuomo,
We are concerned New York residents that care deeply about the animals in our state and want our state laws to match our compassion. New York’s animal cruelty laws are seriously outdated and do little to protect both New York’s animals and human residents. Please support Bella’s Bill, which would enhance penalties for people convicted of intentional animal abuse and move the animal cruelty laws into the Penal Code where they belong.
Last year, New Yorkers were outraged to learn about Bella’s story. Bella was an 11-year-old shepherd mix who was stuffed into a garbage bag and beaten with a shovel by her caregiver in Long Island in December 2016. Although she was rushed to a veterinary hospital, her injuries were too extensive, and Bella was euthanized. Despite the severity of his crime, Bella’s abuser was sentenced to just four months in county jail.
In New York, there are far too many examples of animal cruelty crimes involving heinous acts of violence or terrible neglect. Even if the judge takes the case seriously, under New York law, animal abusers can only serve a maximum of two years in jail. That’s not enough to protect New Yorkers or animals. Just a few months ago, a former New York City banker received only 30 days in jail for stabbing his girlfriend’s dog to death. There shouldn’t be more stories like this or Bella’s.
These light sentences underscore why it’s so important that New York’s cruelty laws be overhauled so that the punishment fits the crime. Did you know that New York landed at #42, among the bottom ten, in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report? New York ranked one spot worse than Alabama. New York can and should do better.
Currently, crimes against animals are located in the Agriculture & Markets Law instead of the Penal Code with other crimes. As a result, cruelty to animals is not treated like a “real” crime and seriously abusing a dog is sometimes treated less seriously than the vandalism of a car.
It’s imperative that New York takes crimes against animals seriously. Abusers of animals are five times as likely to harm humans. Studies have shown a strong correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence as well as child abuse. Moreover, as the Parkland shooting highlighted, 43% of mass school shootings involved offenders with a history of violence to animals. Taking these crimes more seriously can prevent future harm not only to animals but humans as well. New York should follow the lead of neighboring states such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in updating its animal cruelty laws to better protect people and animals alike.
Governor Cuomo, please support Bella’s Bill. Moving the animal cruelty laws into the Penal Code acknowledges both the seriousness of animal cruelty crimes and will better enable law enforcement officers to do their job. It’s far past time that New York’s outdated laws be changed to reflect the care and compassion that New Yorkers have for animals.
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