Western New Yorkers have become all too familiar with the horror of animal abuse over the past year. One dog was set on fire, another mercilessly beaten – kicked, apparently – and left to die, its jaw broken.
While these crimes are shocking, they are only the ones the public knows about. Dog fights are common here. So are cock fights. People involved in animal cruelty are liable to be involved in other criminal activities, including violence against other people.
It was heartening that Buffalo police responded so forcefully last year when a Jack Russell terrier puppy, renamed Phoenix, was purposely set on fire. We hope Niagara Falls police are similarly pursuing whoever broke the jaw of an 8-week-old puppy last week and discarded it near trash cans.
But what has been lacking in the effort to combat animal cruelty is a broader approach to the problem. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is joining that fight with a welcome initiative that employs the resources of multiple agencies. Along with his office and its regional offices across the state, the program will also include the Consumer Fraud Bureau, the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, the Organized Crime Task Force and the Investigations Bureau.
“Fighting animal cruelty is both a consumer protection issue and a public safety issue,” Schneiderman said, noting “a direct correlation between the dogfighting rings and other criminal enterprises, including gangs, gambling and illegal drugs, that put our communities at risk.”
The point is that if anyone believes that preventing animals from being abused is, on its own, insufficient cause to take the problem more seriously, there are plenty of other reasons to do so. With his initiative, Schneiderman is not merely acknowledging that fact, but is taking steps to approach this crime in a way that reflects it.
Among other things, the initiative includes stiffer penalties for those who abuse or neglect animals, as well as those involved in organized dogfighting rings. It also pushes for compliance with the state’s Pet Lemon Law by making it tougher for those who run “puppy mills” to operate – a worthy development on its own.
The combination of investigative resources should help to enforce the laws more effectively. As Barbara Carr, executive director of the SPCA Serving Erie County, noted, agencies investigating a crime scene will each have their own focus. For example, she said, SPCA investigators won’t likely recognize evidence of arms and drug trafficking at the scene of a dogfight. “If we’re all sharing information, you get better results,” Carr said.
We can think of no better way to launch this new effort than for it to devote appropriate resources to finding the abuser who broke the jaw of an 8-week-old puppy and left it to die. That individual merits a serious intervention.