St. Lawrence County Animal Protection Coalition
2010 Annual Report
Animal abuse is a cruel and vicious crime. It can be either deliberate physical abuse or failure to take care of an animal. Neglect involves not giving an animal food, water, shelter or vet care. Because neglected animals misery goes on for so long, animals who die of neglect can suffer just as much, if not more, than animals that are harmed on purpose. Animal hoarding is a special case of neglect when people keep higher than usual numbers of animals as pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them. These people are in denial about their inability to care for their animals and do not usually seek help or surrender their animals so they may receive proper care. Whether the animal is a pet, a farm animal, or wildlife, abused or neglected animals suffer from psychological and physical pain. The effects of this abuse are traumatic and lasting.
Cruelty acts towards animals have long been recognized as predictors of violent crimes against humanity. There is a strong correlation between acts of cruelty towards animals and aggression towards people including domestic abuse, rape, and homicide. In fact the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers animal abuse when profiling serial killers. This is not surprising since a person that has no compassion for a living animal is likely to have the same lack of compassion for other human beings.
On January 4, 2010 the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators passed a resolution encouraging the establishment of the St. Lawrence County Animal Protection Coalition. The board took action after being approached by concerned citizens that wanted to take action to address the issue of animal cruelty and neglect throughout the County. Several incidents of repeat abuse and neglect, an apparent lack of consequence for some offenders, and the rise of cruelty/neglect incidents throughout the County prompted members of the Potsdam Humane Society to organize the effort and present the concept to the legislature. The Coalition is presently chaired by the Vice President of the Potsdam Humane and is comprised of community members, a representative from the District Attorney’s Office which prosecutes animal abuse/neglect cases, the police department/Sheriff’s office that investigates these cases, and the legislature that sets policy for the County.
Throughout the course of the year the Coalition accomplished several tasks as outlined below:
· Developed process flow chart outlining how animal abuse/neglect issues are handled from the point a complaint is made through prosecution.
· Identified issues and barriers that cause the process to breakdown and become ineffective.
· Created a list of possible solutions, action items and owners to address the issues identified that are within the Coalition’s ability to influence change.
· Established a section on the Potsdam Humane Society Website to disseminate information about animal abuse/cruelty.
· Developed a list of agencies that SLC residents can use to report abuse and a list of questions that people reporting abuse can be expected to be asked (in progress)
· Developed a list of veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, and animal welfare experts that are willing to assist in cruelty cases. The list also includes potential volunteers that could offer shelter for animals involved in abuse/neglect cases.
· Facilitated a meeting with St. Lawrence County veterinarians to discuss the purpose of the Coalition and the need for vets to work with law enforcement officials on cruelty cases.
· Clarified differences in animal cruelty laws regarding small and large animals.
· Assembled educational materials for judges and public on animal abuse laws in NYS and link between violent crimes and animal abuse.
· Created press release to begin Educational Phase of Coalition activities.
· Developed release of liability form for use by District Attorney’s office for veterinarians assisting with cruelty cases (in progress)
· Developed protocol to incorporate disclosure to animal welfare organizations in plea agreements for convicted animal abusers (in progress)
· Established protocol for bonding to ensure that charged animal abusers front the costs for boarding their animals when they are removed during a court proceeding. Cases can take months to years to resolve and animals should not be left in potentially dangerous situations (in progress)
NEXT STEPS – 2011 Focus
The tasks listed above provide the core foundation for the Coalition to transition into the next phase of its action plan, education and community outreach. A series of events and outreach should be performed to increase the awareness of animal abuse and neglect throughout the community. To be successful the outreach should target school age children, law enforcement officials that investigate and prosecute animal abuse/neglect cases, judges that oversee cases, and the community at large. Some of the tasks envisioned for this effort include:
· Newspaper articles, radio announcements, and posters and flyers
o To minimize costs, television/radio press could be achieved through interviews with Coalition members
· Poster contest championed by County Sheriff with the intent of educating school-aged children about animal abuse/neglect; current DARE program provides access to children that could participate
· Public service announcements
o Will require funding to develop announcement and obtain airtime
· Coordination of Animal Cruelty: The Law in NYS local judge training
FUTURE DIRECTION OF COMMITTEE
The Coalition believes that there is a need to continue to bring community members, animal welfare advocates, law enforcement officials, and the County Legislature together to increase education and awareness of animal cruelty issues in the County and to strive to improve the way that cases are handled. Periodic meetings with be conducted to identify future goals and initiatives for the Coalition.
REQUEST FROM THE LEGISLATURE
A tremendous amount of volunteer labor was expended in 2010 to organize the Coalition and to achieve many significant accomplishments towards addressing issues related to animal cruelty in the County. This work was done with no financial contribution from the legislature. The success of the group thus far could not have been accomplished without the assistance of Sheriff Kevin Wells and D.A. Nicole Duvé. To continue the work of the group, the Coalition requests continued support by way of appointing a legislative liaison. Peter FitzRandolph was the prior liaison and Dan Parker has offered to fill this role. Additionally, the Coalition would like to ask that some funds be set aside to support some modest public service announcements and facilitate judge training. The Coalition believes that a minimal investment will have a large return by way of the in-kind volunteer effort and the community benefits that come with addressing issues of animal cruelty in a more effective manner.