Updated 05/09/2012 10:42 PM
Law enforcement and advocates speak out at animal cruelty hearing
State lawmakers and the public gathered in Utica to talk about ways to prevent animal cruelty. YNN's Sarah Blazonis tells us that the message from law enforcement officials was clear: When it comes to abusers, it's time to get tough.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Some came from Central New York.
"I'm glad that people of power are starting to pay attention. It's a shame that it's taken so much to happen," said Syracuse resident Annaliese Franzen.
Others traveled from the North Country.
"I've spent pretty much my entire life and my entire adult life really trying to fight for these creatures. They don't have a voice," said Sharah Burton, who lives in Watertown.
Wherever they came from, a voice is what this crowd aimed to give to abused companion animals at a public hearing in Utica Wednesday. It was hosted by a panel of State Senators and aimed at better protecting four-legged friends from abuse.
"I strongly believe that right now, our laws minimize the value of an animal's life," Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara testified.
One suggestion from law enforcement included closing loopholes. Right now, it's hard for prosecutors to get a felony conviction for an abuser, even if an animal is killed. They say it's a difficult task when the victims can't speak.
"Give us a felony-level crime of intentionally killing a companion animal without justification or necessity," said McNamara.
Another issue: Current animal cruelty laws are written in an antiquated language and can be difficult to access because they're not included in the penal law.
"Laws should be written that an average police officer on patrol should be able to find the law, understand the law, and apply the law all in the middle of the night at a crime scene within moments," said Jed Painter, chief of the Animal Crimes Unit in the Nassau County DA's Office.
Testimony from the hearing will be used to perfect bills being put together by the legislature in order to help law enforcement officers better protect animals. It's something members of the public say is long overdue.
"It's about the plain fact that they can feel pain, they can feel suffering...Who's the more savage beast: us for letting it continue, or the people who are actually doing it?" asked Burton.
And while a voice for animals is a good start, advocates say laws with sharper teeth would be one step closer to a happy ending for many.
Lawmakers say the State Senate did recently pass a number of laws to better protect animals. They include tougher penalties for stealing a cat or dog and one aimed at cracking down on organized animal fighting.