Who is responsible for animals? In the United States and in New York State, multiple agencies are responsible for the welfare and protection of animals. The laws cover companion animals, domestic animals, as well as wildlife, farm animals, animals used in research and animals in zoos, circuses and exhibits.
The powers, resources and commitment of the agencies vary significantly resulting in uneven enforcement and oversight.
New York Key Laws and Agencies
New York Agencies Department of Agriculture and Markets Ag. & Mkts. Laws Article 26, 26-A, 7 Department of Environmental Conservation Title 1 (Fish and Wildlife Laws) Department of Health Rabies Laws Dog Licensing
Department of Agriculture and Markets The Agriculture and Markets Law (AML) specifies requirements for animals in the community, including companion animals, farm animals and domestic animals. Pet dealers are regulated under Article 26-A. BUT the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets does not enforce either Article 7 (relating to licensing, identification and control of dogs) or Article 26 (relating to cruelty to animals).
Dog Control OfficerS … are often thought to have the powers of animal cruelty investigators but these are very different jobs with distinct legal authority. When dealing with animal issues and animal cruelty, it is very important to know the difference.
Dog Control officers Under Article 7, dog control officers are responsible for the control and protection of the dog population and the protection of persons, property, domestic animals and deer from dog attack and damage. DCOs seize stray and unlicensed dogs and respond to dangerous dog complaints. Some jurisdictions may call their officers Animal Control Officers and allow them to assist with other animals, but these services are not required by New York State law.
New York State Local governments and municipalities are ONLY required by law to be responsible for dog control and licensing including aggressive and dangerous dogs Individual cities, towns and villages may also have their own local ordinances.
New York Many of the responsibilities and oversight with regard to domestic and companion animals including animal sheltering, cruelty investigations, barking dogs and lost pets are not mandated by the law but are performed by not-for-profit organizations, local police departments and some municipalities based on their own laws and ordinances.
So all of these laws exist to protect animals. But there are exceptions.
Many of these New York laws… …overlap with the federal Animal Welfare Act, including dog breeders, animals in zoos and exhibits, and animals bred and used in research.
So what’s wrong with this picture? These laws exist, at the state level, and are in place to protect animals. Right?
Article 25-AA Exempts farmers following “sound agricultural practices” from the cruelty laws in Article 26.
Animals used in research at laboratories approved by the state department of health ARE NOT PROTECTED BY NEW YORK STATE ANIMAL CRUELTY LAWS.
THERE ARE SOME RESTRICTIONS ON HUNTING PRACTICES BUT VERY LITTLE ENFORCEMENT.
EACH TOWN, VILLAGE AND CITY THAT ISSUES DOG LICENSES MUST CONTRACT FOR DOG AND SHELTER SERVICES. Article 7 Section 114 In the Capital Region’s larger municipalities, these services are provided by full time employees. But most towns have part time officers often serving more than one town, city or village.
County # Municipalities Albany 14 Columbia 18 Greene 14 Rensselaer 16 Saratoga 21 Schenectady 5 Schoharie 16
If a domestic animal is hit and injured by a car, the driver must locate the owner or contact the police… This usually does not happen. Animals that are hit by vehicles are often left by the side of the road. Dead animals are usually removed by the local highway department and disposed of in a landfill.
Recent changes to article 7 The State has been removed from the dog licensing process, effective January 1, 2011. Prior to this, NYS provided the license tags, forms, issued renewals and maintained the database which contained almost 700,000 records. As of January 2011, each municipality will have to handle these tasks on its own.
Animal cruelty investigators Specially trained agents of not-for-profit organizations, designated as SPCAs (Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) SPCAs may or may not use that title (e.g., Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society) The ASPCA in NYC has the authority to designate one agency in each county to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty.
SPCAs Some agencies are very active in carrying out these duties. In other counties, an agency was designated at one time, but no longer carries out these tasks.
SPCAs SPCAs often assist in rescuing animals in distress or injured, often responding to calls about animals abandoned in vacant homes and apartments.
ANIMAL CRUELTY LAWS In several counties in the Capital Region, there is no designated agency to enforce cruelty. Incidences of cruelty can (and should) be reported to police but unfortunately most have no training in the animal cruelty laws. Or, in this case, SPCAs in adjoining counties can investigate if they are willing.
Capital region counties and their designated spcas Albany – Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society (MHRHS) Columbia – Columbia Greene Humane Society Greene - “ “ Rensselaer – MHRHS Saratoga – NONE Schenectady – Schenectady County SPCA Schoharie - NONE
NYS pet Dealer law (article 26-a) Both the NYS Pet Dealer law and the Federal Animal Welfare Act are intended to protect companion animals bred for sale to the public. There are no penalties for unlicensed operation and the enforcement process is cumbersome and ineffective. Neither law regulates online sales.
Federal Agencies United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Federal Animal Welfare Act Federal Humane Slaughter Act United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Federal Endangered Species Act See page 33 text
Animal welfare act Covers all animals bred for research (except birds, mice and rats) or exhibition and dogs wholesaled to pet stores. Cats and other animals wholesaled to pet stores are not regulated.
Solutions… Should review the designated county SPCAs at least once every 5 years to assure that the services are being provided statewide and with quality. Provision to remove this designation should be added to the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law.
Review the laws to facilitate services at the county or regional level. Current law does not encourage consolidation of these services. By placing animal protection responsibility issues at various levels of government and with private organizations, the availability and quality of services is very uneven. Standards, including training and continuing education, should be developed and implemented for dog control officers, municipal shelters, police and SPCAs.