Brindisi lauds animal-cruelty work, bills before Congress

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UTICA — Congressman Anthony Brindisi, D-22, Utica, made a summer-recess stop Wednesday to laud an animal shelter’s work and expansion plans, praise a proposed Oneida County registry of animal abusers, and to plug national legislation tightening laws against cruelty to horses and pets.

Brindisi held a brief press conference at the Stevens-Swan Humane Society’s shelter on Horatio Street in North Utica with shelter staff and board members and county officials. Brindisi discussed a law passed last week in the House to strengthen regulations used by the Department of Agriculture against soring, a practice of altering the front legs of show horses to cause the animals pain and exaggerate their high-stepping gait.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act is endorsed by many equestrian associations and would increase civil and criminal penalties against the practice, which Brindisi said is “done by immoral trainers.” The bill is now in the Senate. Another bill he is co-sponsoring would establish new rules for commercial dog breeders. Called the Puppy Protection Act, it addresses vagueness in current regulations regarding veterinary care, food and water and socialization and shelter requirements. 

“Stories from these puppies mils are horrendous: dogs found with open wounds, emaciated dogs with their ribs and spine showing dogs with moldy food, dirty water and filthy cages. This is unacceptable,” Brindisi said. “Current federal standards are failing to protect animals, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

And he is a cosponsor of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, which would make a federal crime out of malicious cruelty to an animal on federal property or in interstate commerce. It would complement state laws and federal statutes on animal fighting and videos depicting animal cruelty by making the actual acts a specific offense. “No dog should live its life inside wire cages with no companionship no protection from harsh weather and without adequate food and water,” Brindisi said. “It is up to us to be the voice for the voiceless and help end all animal suffering.”

Brindisi noted he has a 10-year-old shelter dog.

He also endorsed work on establishing a registry of convicted animal abusers proposed by Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. and Sheriff Rob Maciol, who joined him at Wednesday’s event.

The proposal made in May would establish a registry with include the names, addresses and photos of convicted abusers much like more common sex-offender registries and be accompanied by a law making it illegal for them to own animals. It was withdrawn from consideration by county legislators over concerns on the effects on livestock farming and whether a conviction by an employee or member of a farm corporation would affect the whole organization, concerns lawmakers say are being addressed in a draft expected to come before lawmakers in the next few months.

Picente spoke briefly, noting that the county is also developing a law regulating pop-up rescue shelters.

The federal legislation regarding breeders was praised by Stevens-Swan executive board member Jackie Romano for addressing the root cause of cruelty and the need for shelters.

She also announced that Stevens-Swan has an expansion of its shelter planned and will begin a capital campaign in the fall.

The campaign is aimed at producing a revenue stream to help reduce the organization’s reliance on donations. It receives no federal or state funds other than a stipend from the city of Utica for handling strays, she said.

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