Animal cruelty could carry longer prison sentences and larger fines, according to new legislation introduced by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice at Tuesday.
"This is what we've been waiting for," said Animal Lover's League volunteer and cofounder Joan Phillips. "I have so much admiration for all those who worked on the legislation. It's very comprehensive…and introduces more effective means of prosecuting."
The new legislation, cosponsored by , and Assemb. Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, would shift crimes of animal cruelty to the penal code, pumping jail sentences and enhancing penalties for repeat offenders.
Acts like dog fighting, animal cruelty, and injuring police animals or trained animals aiding disabled persons could put those found guilty in prison for up to seven years. Offenders could also be charged with criminal possession of a weapon. This charge currently protects only humans if an offender intends to use a weapon unlawfully.
"No animal should have to suffer at the hands of an abuser,” said Fuschillo. “Law enforcement officials need stronger tools to prosecute cases of animal cruelty and ensure that animal abusers are held accountable for their heartless crimes."
The closing of current loopholes in the system, Rosenthal said, "will ensure that heinous acts against animals are treated with the seriousness they deserve by law enforcement and the courts."
According to Phillips, the new laws will better an already thriving Animal Crimes Unit, supervised by Assistant District Attorney Jed L. Painter.
"Compared to before, cases get into court like lightening…and Jed has taught us so much about the law and tutored us so we won't mess up investigations," said Phillips.
“Animals hold a special place in our society, one that has changed dramatically since the criminal statutes were first written,” Rice said Tuesday. "The changes outlined in this proposed legislation not only serve to modernize and simplify existing law, but give a voice to the voiceless and hold accountable those who abuse and neglect these innocent creatures.”