Essex County to form animal cruelty sub-committee

Jessica Hartley talks about animal cruelty issues at the Aug. 6 Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Jessica Hartley talks about animal cruelty issues at the Aug. 6 Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

In the wake of recent animal cruelty cases in the region, the North Country SPCA and Essex County Board of Supervisors are joining together to crack down.

Board chairman Randy Douglas said that he would look into forming a county sub-committee tasked with working to improve laws and punishments for animal cruelty during the Aug. 6 regular board meeting.

“That is very alarming, some of the cases that you have brought to our attention,” Douglas said following a presentation by NCSPCA board member Jessica Hartley. “I will adhere to your request and look to appoint a task force.”

Hartley spoke with members of the board about the need for stricter penalties for animal cruelty cases.

“In the last month alone, we have had six new cases of animal cruelty in Essex County,” Hartley said. “These were clear-cut cases of animal cruelty and neglect, and these are just the cases that we know of.This is more than just an animal welfare issue. There is a link and a strong correlation between animal cruelty and domestic and child abuse.”

Hartley said that she felt an effective committee would consist of a pair of supervisors along with representatives from the district attorney, sheriff, probation department, local humane organizations and public.

“We sat down with the sheriff's department and D.A. for a discussion on this matter last month and came up with a list of goals for preventing animal cruelty,” Hartley said. “We felt that a committee like this could aid in the prevention and prosecution of animal cruelty cases in Essex County.”

District Attorney Kristy Sprague said that she was behind the idea.

“We broke down the law element by element and there needs to be some sort of update with the law on the state level and on the local level,” Sprague said. “We need to start going over what we can do locally until the state steps up to do something. I am fully committed to this task force, along with the Sheriff's Department and the probation department.”

Hartley said that the committee would have to work toward better local laws concerning animal cruelty, enhanced means and methods for caring for animals removed from abusive situations, education and training on animal cruelty laws and cases, standardized job descriptions for animal control officers, mutual aid agreements between town animal control officers, public education and awareness of animal cruelty, along with anti-cruelty task forces in New York and Vermont working together.

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