Franklin County OKs animal cruelty task force

The Franklin County Board of Legislators approved the creation of a county-wide animal cruelty task force on Nov. 2, allowing a group of law enforcement, veterinarians and animal shelters to investigate, remedy and prosecute cases of animal abuse and neglect.

The county’s previous system for addressing animal cruelty is disjointed, with investigators, shelters and veterinarians working separately. The task force will allow them to operate under the same umbrella and makes their job of protecting the county’s animals easier.

The task force will mimic the actions of the Essex County Animal Cruelty Task Force, which monitored the humane treatment of the dogs, cats, cows and other personal and farm animals within the county for several years.

Animal cruelty occurs in two forms: neglect and abuse.

Neglect is a common and often unintentional issue that can usually be solved by supporting the animal owners. When animal owners age, are absent or ignore their pets, the animals sometimes wind up underfed, without shelter or living in squalor.

Lisa Coryea, who runs the dog rescue organization Precious Pups in Mountain View and introduced the task force idea, said the most common form of neglect she sees in the Adirondacks is pets left outside without shelter in cold conditions.

The task force will help connect owners with the resources they need to keep their furry friends healthy, clean and comfortable, stepping in to prosecute or remove animals when necessary.

The Tri-Lakes Humane Society in Saranac Lake is one of the shelters that takes in pets from residents and towns’ dog control officers and contracts with municipalities from Long Lake to Paul Smiths.

Melinda Little, the president of the society’s board, said she will talk with the task force about taking animals the task force picks up, helping make them adoptable and finding them new families.

Animal neglect can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge in New York. This will only be done in extreme cases, she said, not any time someone forgets to feed their dog.

“Prosecution will be a last resort,” Coryea said.

Abuse refers to purposeful harming or tormenting of an animal. Most offenses result in misdemeanor charges, but that depends on the severity. Coryea remembers one case in which a man kicked a dog, breaking its leg, and wound up on felony probation.

These cases involve more law enforcement, more criminal charges and more difficult people to work with. The types of people who abuse animals are not peaceful members of society, Coryea said. They often are violent in general, leading scientific researchers to term animal abuse as “the link” to domestic violence and child abuse for decades.

“If people are being cruel to animals, there is a chance they’re being cruel to their spouses, or their significant other or their children,” task force member and county District Attorney Craig Carriero said. “The two crimes aren’t mutually exclusive, but sometimes they are tied together.”

A study published in the peer-reviewed Violence Against Women journal found that women residing in domestic violence shelters were nearly 11 times more likely to report that their partner had hurt or killed pets than women who had not experienced domestic violence.

“Sometimes the perpetrator of domestic violence will use the pet as a way to keep control over the person they are abusing,” Coryea said. “The perpetrator will also abuse a pet to scare the other person.”

The study from Violence Against Women also revealed that 18 percent of the 107 women surveyed at a South Carolina domestic violence shelters reported that concern for their pets’ welfare had delayed their entering the shelter.

The county currently handles several cases of animal cruelty each year and members said they hope more incidents come to light as residents now have a central place to report animal abuse and neglect. The task force will also connect the different organizations that prosecute these cases, letting animal caretakers work with law enforcement and courts to follow these cases all the way through.

“When prosecuting a cruelty case it is imperative that the animal protection agency, like the Tri-Lakes Humane Society appear to exhibit the evidence with the accused and the arresting officer in front of the judge to come to a verdict,” Tri-Lakes Humane Society board member and publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise Cathy Moore wrote in an email. “If the abuser is found guilty, their punishment will hopefully protect the animal and perhaps prevent abusive behavior in the future.”

Anyone witnessing the abuse or neglect of animals are encouraged to contact Coryea at frcoacts@outlook.com.

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