New state law will benefit the Warwick Valley Humane Society

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  • State Sen. Greg Ball

— On Dec. 19, tate Sen. Greg Ball (R, C, I - Patterson) announced that his bill that will require animal abusers to pay for the cost of care for abused animals that have been seized, had been signed by the governor and will now become law.

"It seems as though weekly we are disturbed by even more heinous accounts of animal cruelty," said Ball. "These reports are heartbreaking and underline the exact need for this new law. This law will now enable courts to hold hearings to compensate impounding organizations for their services, which will in turn help continue to provide care to abused animals."

Often in cases of animal cruelty, a law enforcement agent seizes animals. Afterward, housing and care for these animals must be found.

Historically, organizations such as shelters, humane societies, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and rescue organizations have assisted law enforcement by providing care for these animals.Such organizations have provided services often with little or no reimbursement.

The financial burden of caring for many animals, often for lengthy periods of time, is forcing some organizations to decline assisting law enforcement, refusing to place seized animals.

Where there is no organization to care for seized animals, law enforcement is less likely to conduct seizures and animals remain in abusive situations and conditions.

"This is awesome news for all of us in the animal care field," said Suzyn Barron, president of the Warwick Valley Humane Society. "This important legislation was long overdue and hopefully this law will prompt the abuser to surrender the animals as soon as possible. In the larger cases, it will be a godsend, not only for the shelters, humane societies and rescue groups but most especially for the animals who will be able to placed up for adoption after receiving the necessary care and not have to wait in limbo indefinitely."

In 1996 The Warwick Advertiser published an award winning series of articles about the plight of 15 dogs, all part of an ill fed and cared for menagerie seized by New York State Police during a raid at the home of Greenwood Lake resident Stephen Kyprianides.

Although Kyprianides was subsequently convicted of animal cruelty, the Warwick Valley Humane Society could not put the dogs up for adoption. And it was ordered to care for the animals without any reimbursement pending decisions on appeals filed by Kyprianides' attorney.

The action cost the shelter more than $80,000.

The publicity, however, eventually prompted new state legislation designed to help compensate shelters that house animals seized in cruelty cases. Persons awaiting trial for abusing animals that had been rescued by a shelter could be ordered to post security in the amount sufficient to secure payment for all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred by the impounding organization in the caring and providing for the animal, pending disposition of the charges.

Although New York's current security posting law is intended to alleviate some of the financial burden on agencies and organizations, it does not always achieve that result. Currently, security posting is discretionary and courts sometimes do not require it, even when the requisite burden of proof has been met. Impounding organizations had to file a petition to obtain a security posting. Often, however, they do not have legal counsel and are unaware that they have the option to seek a security posting.

"The security bond posting," said Barron, "was an arduous task with all the legalese and time constraints involved. I know. I've been there several times."

The Warwick Valley Humane Society has been the plaintiff in numerous cases of animal abuse in the 18 years since the law was enacted.

Senator Ball has also recently passed legislation through the Senate that would require a convicted animal abuser to register his or her name and address to a public registry, undergo a psychiatric evaluation and prevent them from owning a pet again.

- Roger Gavan

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