New York State Buster Bill
I have been lobbying for ten years, and I have never seen as much cooperation from members of the NYS Assembly and Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, for the passage of a bill, as there was for the “Buster Bill.” (A.2268/S.3311)
As most of you know, this bill was named after the cat, “Buster,” who was intentionally burned to death in Schenectady in 1997. This bill would have made unjustifiable, intentional, and violent acts of cruelty to companion animals a Class E felony crime, as it already is in more than 20 other states. Presently in New York State, crimes like hanging, burning, or torturing dogs and cats are only unclassified misdemeanors while possession of a forged check or a stolen credit card is a felony!
I have been a police officer for twenty years. My field of expertise has been investigating animal cruelty, and I have seen some hideous crimes inflicted upon animals. I have been in places where more than 200 dogs were allowed to starve to death. I’ve seen horses locked in a barn for two years because they “were bad and had to be punished.” One of these poor horses couldn’t walk without blood pouring out of his feet. I saw a dog that was intentionally locked in a vehicle for ten hours in 95 degree heat and subsequently died. None of the people arrested for these crimes ever went to jail — not even for a day. Few people who commit these types of acts ever will as long as the crimes remain unclassified misdemeanors.
Society is beginning to understand the link between animal cruelty and human violence. Unfortunately though, as long as animal cruelty remains an unclassified misdemeanor, there only will be a handful of police officers who are willing to put any effort into conducting a cruelty investigation. And, since unclassified misdemeanors require no fingerprinting, there will continue to be no records maintained on violent animal abusers who might very well harm a human one day.
This bill is not about animal rights. It is about human decency. For several months, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, a sponsor of the bill, organized meetings between humane groups as well as members of the Farm Bureau, National Rifle Association, and hunting groups in an effort to compose a bill that would meet the approval of all concerned, and it did. It also passed unanimously in the Senate, and it would have passed in the Assembly if Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had brought it to the floor for a vote. He chose not to do so. It amazes me that one person has that much control, and we call this a democracy.
It’s difficult to understand why Speaker Silver opposed this legislation. During the legislative session, I tried many times to make an appointment to meet with Speaker Silver about this bill because I was advised that he did not want the bill to pass. Each time I was told that he was too busy to make any appointments.
We cannot give up. We must continue to fight for this critical legislation. Please write or phone your legislators now to let them know how disappointed you are that the “Buster Bill” was not brought to the Assembly floor for a vote. They do read their mail and do want your opinions. The bill is slated to come up again when the legislature reconvenes in January. Let your state representatives know that you support the “Buster Bill” and want it brought to the floor for a vote. In the spring issue of Humane Review, we will provide you with the new bill numbers which will be assigned to the “Buster Bill”in the next legislative session, and will ask that you contact your representatives again.
We must do all we can. We must do it for the animals.
Susan C. McDonough
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XII, No.3, Fall 1998.