This past winter in Newburgh an American Staffordshire terrier named Rocky was left out in freezing weather for five weeks while its owner was on vacation. After rescuers found the dog, they had to euthanize him.
On June 6, Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus signed Rocky’s Law, meant to prevent such abuse from happening again. Mindy, an American Staffordshire from the Warwick Valley Humane Society, also placed her paw print on the bill.
“We are going to get the message out to people: if you are doing this there are going to be strong consequences for your actions,” Neuhaus said.
Once filed, the law will aggressively protect pets from abusive owners. The signing took place at the Warwick Valley Humane Society, which cares for Mindy and other pets and has been outspoken in preventing animal abuse.
The law is one of the strictest in the nation punishing animal abuse. Anyone in Orange County convicted of animal abuse must register with the sheriff’s office within five days of his or her conviction or after being released from jail if incarcerated.
Not reporting convictions will be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000 for each day offenders fail to register.
Abusers will stay on the registry for 15 years, but will be reinstated for life if they are convicted again for abusing an animal.
Rocky’s Law was introduced by Orange County Legislator Michael Anagnostakis (R-Newburgh) in April and was passed by legislators unanimously last month.
Orange County legislator John Vero supports the new law. “This is something that’s way overdue in our county. We are here because we love our animals. We love our pets. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who don’t and that’s what this law is about.”
Convicted animal abusers will be required to pay a $125 fee to cover any costs for maintaining Orange County’s registry and database and could be incarcerated for up to a year, and fined as much as $5,000, if they obtain another animal while included on the registry.
Any person who gives or sells the animal to the offender will face a maximum $5,000 fine.
President of the Warwick Valley Humane Society Suzyn Barren expressed her gratitude for the stiff law. “This law is so necessary to help those of us trying to find homes to have more peace of mind knowing that they are going into a home that is not a home of an animal abuser.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will administer the database of animal abusers, which will include names and photos of convicted animal abusers. The county will also post links of animal abuse registries in neighboring counties.
The department trains animal control officers, and Sheriff Carl E. DuBois has long supported prevention of animal abuse. “I’m an advocate for the prevention of animal cruelty for the last 12 plus years of being sheriff,” Dubois said.
The county has a proven record of protecting animals. In 2004, as an Orange County prosecutor, District Attorney David Hoovler won the conviction of someone reputed to be the biggest dog fighting promoter east of the Mississippi. The Warwick Valley Humane Society took in the 18 pit bulls taken from the promoter’s property.
Barren says that Mindy, the American Staffordshire terrier whose paw print appears on the bill enacting Rocky’s law, was picked up at a ShopRite parking lot as an unclaimed stray with no microchip or ID.