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County task force says “neigh” to animal cruelty

Photo by Katherine Clark.

ELIZABETHTOWN — An emerging group of lawmakers, civic organizations and grassroots activists want you to know that animal abuse doesn’t fly in Essex County.

On Monday, March 17, a task force met at the Essex County Government Center to chart a path forward in preventing, identifying and prosecuting animal cruelty within county lines.

“We as a society definitely need to provide better protection to our animal population,” said Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting, who helped set up the force. “This can be done by more comprehensive laws designed to punish offenders and make offenses carry more legal weight than the outdated and archaic laws that we have to deal with now.”

Cutting said there are currently no local laws specifically prohibiting animal cruelty and authorities have to turn to the often-antiquated Agricultural and Markets laws written for the agrarian communities of yesteryear.

Those laws, most of them equating to toothless misdemeanors, mainly refer to things like overdriving livestock, said Cutting.

District Attorney Kristy Sprague agreed that current legislation hasn’t caught up in reflecting the contemporary realities of animal ownership and nailing those who continually abuse them, whether by leaving them exposed to the harsh elements or neglecting to the extent to which they’re eventually whittled into skeletal, sore-pocked skinrags.

“The animal abuse statutes as they stand now do not provide increased sanction for repeat offenders and provide no statutory right for the prosecutor to ask for lifetime prohibition on ownership of animals,” she said in an email message. “This is just scratching the surface as to the inadequacies of the current laws.”

Sprague, who is on the task force, said from a law enforcement standpoint, crimes against animals have been linked to other types of abuse, including domestic violence.

“This is very concerning,” she said.

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Chaired by Lewis Supervisor David Blades and Willsboro chief Shaun Gillilland, the task force’s objectives for the year are to develop, approve and adopt county policies and procedures for handling animal cruelty cases that are beyond the capability of local town animal control officers to handle.

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