Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga) and Senator Hugh Farley (R,C,I-Niskayuna) today announced new legislation to keep our streets safe and protect residents from what seems to be an epidemic of dangerous dog attacks.
The Dangerous Dog Owner Deterrent Act (A.8842/S.6059) enables law enforcement to charge an irresponsible dog owner up to a felony if their dog seriously injures someone, carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. The law gives judges discretion to impose the most serious sentences for the most severe cases.
The bill also allows for the search and seizure of illegal materials, similar to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law. If a dangerous dog owner has already been convicted of a violent crime, further investigation will be enabled. Street gangs and drug dealers often use dangerous dogs for animal fighting and as status symbols and weapons.
In August 2011, 59-year-old Shirleen Lucas was savagely attacked and disfigured by three pitbull dogs on Hulett Street in Schenectady while walking home. The owner of the three pitbulls was recently offered a sentence of just 30 days in jail despite the fact that she had been cited twice before for harboring dangerous, unlicensed dogs.
There have been several other recent attacks by dangerous dogs, enabled by irresponsible owners, in New York City, Long Island and Rochester.
“The Dangerous Dog Owner Deterrent Act targets criminally irresponsible dog owners who raise their dogs to be vicious weapons and is not limited to any one breed of dog because any dog can have a bad day,” said Tedisco, the driving force behind passage of the landmark Buster’s Law, which created the felony category of aggravated cruelty to animals. “Owning a companion animal is not a right but a privilege and it’s up to dog owners to be responsible for their pets. Dogs should be raised as companion pets, not trained to be killers.”
“Some dog owners create an environment that jeopardizes the safety of others. Recent incidents have demonstrated the need to strengthen the existing penalty levels in order to create a more effective deterrent and improve public safety,” said Farley.