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Moriah to adopt animal control law

Gerbils convince supervisor new legislation is needed

Gerbils. The burrowing, mouse-like rodent, was the last straw for Tom Scozzafava. The Moriah supervisor wants to scrap the town’s existing dog ordinance and replace it with an animal control law. He expects town board action on the proposal in 2014.

Gerbils. The burrowing, mouse-like rodent, was the last straw for Tom Scozzafava. The Moriah supervisor wants to scrap the town’s existing dog ordinance and replace it with an animal control law. He expects town board action on the proposal in 2014.

— “Animal control is a huge issue,” Scozzafava said. “It’s a hidden cost to taxpayers.”

Scozzafava related a recent incident in Moriah. A resident was alleged to have abused a dog. After investigation by the town dog control officer, the dog was confiscated and taken to a licensed shelter for care while a criminal case played out. Moriah paid $4,000 for the dog’s care.

There have been several similar cases, he said.

A court can charge the animal’s owner for their care, Scozzafava said, but that’s often not realistic. People either can’t or won’t pay the bill.

The state’s animal control laws are vague and need to be addressed, the supervisor said.

“We get an anonymous call,” he said. “Someone claims a dog is being abused. We send our dog control officer, Ed Roberts, to investigate. He gets there and finds the dog is thin, but there’s a bowl of food sitting next to the dog. Ed takes photos, does an investigation. Is the dog thin or malnourished?

“Only a vet can really make that determination,” he said. “Calling a vet may take some time and it can be expensive. So what’s the right thing to do?”

Moriah calls the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, which has a deputy trained in animal abuse, to make a decision.

“It’s a tough situation,” Scozzafava said. “Neither Ed Roberts or the sheriff’s deputy are vets. We need some clarification. Who makes the abuse determination and who pays for the animal’s care?”

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