Animal rights group seeks a 'basic level of decency'
April 05, 2010
Animal rights advocates are strengthening their call to end animal abuse across the state, urging legislators to pass legislation in 2010 that would crack down on animal fights, puppy mills and the intense confinement of farm animals.
The calls came at the 2010 New York State Humane Lobby Day March 24, at which Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky was presented with the Humane Society of the United States Humane Legislator of the Year award in recognition of her efforts in supporting animal protection legislation in 2009.
"We are speaking for animals who can't talk for themselves," said Stavisky, D- Whitestone. "I think that is part of our mission here in Albany, to speak for the unrepresented and ignored in our society."
The bills on the animal rights activists' lobby day agenda would make attending an animal fight or possessing fighting animals a felony; put an end to facilities where shooters pay to kill non-wild animals; place limits on puppy mills or places that mass-produce puppies for sale; restrict intensive confinement of farm animals and prohibit tail docking, the act of partially amputating cow tails.
Bill S.3926/A.6287-a, sponsored in the Senate by Stavisky and in the Assembly by Joseph Lentol, D-Brookyln, would change spectator and possession provisions in animal fighting laws by making both acts felonies. Animal fights are when two or more animals are pitted against each other for the purpose of entertainment or gambling.
Though fighting animals does carry felony penalties, existing state law makes being a spectator at an animal fight a "traffic ticket-style violation," and possessing animals for the purpose of fighting a misdemeanor. According to the Humane Society, it is difficult for police to differentiate between spectators and participants during raids.
"If you're a spectator, you're as guilty as the person who organized the fights," argued Stavisky.
In a state-by-state study done by the Humane Society on the strength of dog fighting laws, New York was ranked one of the weakest, at number 48.
The bill is in the Agriculture Committee in the Senate and in the Codes Committee in the Assembly.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, touted two of her bills at the lobby day. The Farm Animal Right to Move Act (A.8163) would phase out by 2015 the practice of food-producing farms storing veal, hens and pigs in cages or crates.
The title of the bill comes from Rosenthal's assertion that on some factory farms animals are kept in cages "for virtually their entire lives. … The ones on the outside sort of get welded to the bars of the cages because they just have no room to move."
Rosenthal said her bill "would codify a basic level of decency for these animals that have no rights; they have no way to defend themselves, and they're just captive."
Another bill introduced by Rosenthal (A.9732) would prohibit the act of tail-docking, or partially amputating up to two-thirds of a cow's tail. The practice is done mainly on dairy farms to prevent contamination during the milking process.
But according to Rosenthal, the process has not been proven to produce more sanitary milk and is an extremely painful and slow procedure. It is done by either strangulating the blood supply to the tail by using a rubber band or twisting off the tail with a sharp instrument.
Neither of Rosenthal's bills have a same-as in the Senate, and the Assemblywoman said she is searching for the perfect sponsor. "I want people who are doing it because it's the right thing to do, not because it's the popular thing," she said. Both bills are currently in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.
"I believe that even people who use and consume animal products, when they find out about the cruelty these animals live through, they want no part of that," said Rosenthal. "So at least while they're living, treat them humanely. It's the least we can do."
Another bill touted at the lobby day (S.3223/A.6788) is sponsored in the Senate by Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn, and in the Assembly by Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan. It would ban canned shoots, which are fenced-in hunting facilities where shooters pay to kill animals that are not wild. Guides working at canned shoots lure animals to certain areas where shooters wait to kill them.
According to the Humane Society, individuals mainly use canned shoots to obtain trophy-size animals to decorate their homes with and have nothing to do with hunting or sportsmanship. The animals, according to the society, often come from private breeders or zoos and are not naturally scared of people.
"It's not real hunting," said Patrick Kwan, the Humane Society's New York director. According to Kwan, more than 20 other states have already banned canned shoots. Both the Assembly and Senate bills are now in their Environmental Conservation committees.
Bill S.5392-a/A.7285-b, sponsored in the Senate by Daniel Squadron, D-Brooklyn, and in the Assembly by Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, would make it a Class A misdemeanor for a person or business that sells pets to own more than 50 dogs or cats over four months old if they are not neutered.
The act springs out of controversy over puppy mills, which according to the Humane Society, "contribute to pet overpopulation by churning out thousands of puppies a year that are often sold to impulse buyers and ultimately end up in shelters."
Both the Assembly and Senate bills are currently in their Agriculture Committees.