The common phrase goes; a dog is a ‘man’s best friend’.
When most people think of their pet, they most often treat them as if they were another member of the family. They shower their adored animal with love and affection, attending to its every need.
However, that is not always the happy reality. Some humans have the indecency to abandon their pet, leave them without food or water, or even worse; they abuse animals and train them to fight in order to garner a profit.
With the emergence of two recent animal abuse cases in Chenango County within the past month, I feel as if now is the perfect time to shine a light on how lenient the animal cruelty laws are in New York State.
According to the New York State Penal Law, animal cruelty offenses are classified under the Agriculture and Markets Law. An animal is defined by New York State as ‘every living creature except a human being, while "torture" or "cruelty" includes every act, omission, or neglect, whereby unjustifiable physical pain, suffering or death is caused or permitted.
The highest punishment that an individual could face for an instance of animal cruelty under New York State Law is four years imprisonment, or a $25,000 fine. That is if someone is convicted of breeding or training animals to fight.
Section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets Law states, 'A person who overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats or unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates or kills any animal, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another, or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or neglects or refuses to furnish it such sustenance or drink, or causes, procures or permits any animal to be overdriven, overloaded, tortured, cruelly beaten, or unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or killed, or to be deprived of necessary food or drink, or who willfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor and for purposes of paragraph (b) of subdivision one of section 160.10 of the criminal procedure law, shall be treated as a misdemeanor defined in the penal law.'
That is equivalent to the punishment that someone who got caught stealing a candy bar from a store, or driving without registration, would face. Misdemeanors usually warrant little to no jail time, and often result in fines, especially if it is someone’s first offense, as is the case in many animal abuse investigations.
In one of the animal abuse cases in Chenango County, a woman was convicted of leaving her dog tied to a stove for four days without any food or water. When the dog was finally found by the Police, it was covered in its own urine and feces.
Now, if this unimaginable act of cruelty involved a human, the consequences would be extremely severe, but seeing as it was ‘just a dog’, the woman in question received a 10-day sentence in the Chenango County Correctional Facility.
It is absurd that a person who feels the need to torture or neglect a pet could potentially face no imprisonment. Pets have feelings as well. They feel the same pain as humans do. I believe that's it's time for New York to step up to the plate and demand that animal cruelty laws become more strict and more severe. If someone is cruel enough to subject an animal to starvation or torture, then they should be held accountable, and forced to face much harsher penalties.