Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill
The Committee on Animal Law expressed support for A.775/S.1776 (the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill), which would relocate many of the criminal provisions currently found in the Agriculture and Markets Law to a new Title Q in the Penal Law. The bill also re-defines statutory terms, creates new statutory terms, re-titles animal crimes offenses, reclassifies existing animal crimes, delineates sentencing provisions, and introduces various new animal crimes offenses and creates a hierarchy of offenses for charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing purposes. The Committee believes such a change would clarify, modernize, and restructure the animal crimes law of New York State and promote greater enforcement and consistent interpretation of animal crimes.
In a joint report the Committees on Animal Law, Children and the Law, and Education and the Law expressed support for A.2484, which would require the Commissioner of Education to notify every school district of the existing requirement that elementary schools provide instruction in the humane treatment of animals, their importance in the environment, and the importance of spaying and neutering programs. The amendment also authorizes the Commissioner to appropriate grants to teachers for training, workshops, videos, and other resources used for humane education instruction and that all applicants for a teaching certificate or license complete two hours of course work or training in humane education instruction.
Sprinklers in Pet Stores
The Committee on Animal Law supports with recommendations A.972, which would require the installation and testing of fire equipment and sprinkler systems for animal housing maintained by pet dealers. As drafted, the proposed legislation would only apply to pet dealer facilities housing dogs and cats and would not cover pet stores that sell only birds, rabbits, and/or reptiles. The report therefore recommends that the proposed legislation be expanded to cover all companion animals housed by pet stores.
Animal Licensing Exemption
A.1123/S.1700 would provide that commercial dog breeders are only exempt from New York State licensing, vaccination, and control regulations where the breeder sells dogs exclusively to USDA registered research facilities and has obtained a certificate of exemption. The Committee on Animal Law expressed support for this legislation as it would close a loophole that currently allows certain commercial dog breeders to escape the licensing, vaccination, and other dog control requirements simply because the breeder is registered as a Class A dealer with the USDA.
Theft of a Companion Animal or Pet
The Committee on Animal Law expressed support for A.1643/S.2336-A, which would amend the Penal Law to provide for first and second degree felony offenses for the theft of a companion animal or pet. The proposed legislation would create a second degree felony offense where a person steals a companion animal or pet and a first degree felony offense where a person commits pet theft in the second degree and either 1) the stolen pet or companion animal is sold for scientific research purposes or 2) the person who stole the pet or companion animal with no justifiable purpose…intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to such companion animal or pet with aggravated cruelty.
In a letter to the Legislature, the Committee on Animal Law provided comments on A.738/S.1922, which would prohibit the sale of unweaned baby birds by pet dealers. The Committee supports the intent of the law, to protect unweaned baby birds and to protect consumers who may not know how to properly care for these birds, but expressed concern that as drafted the bill would not apply to many bird sellers. Under the proposed law only bird sellers who also sell dogs or cats would be subject to the law. The Committee recommends amendments which would keep the bill substantively the same but ensure that it applies to bird sellers generally. The Committee also suggested two other legislative approaches: establishing a fuller regulatory system for the sale of unweaned birds, and banning their sale altogether.
Animals Performing in Circuses
The Animal Law Committee issued a report in support of New York City Council bill Int. No. 49-2010, which would prohibit the display of any wild or exotic animal in New York City. Under the proposed legislation, “display” is defined as an exhibition, act, circus, ride, trade show, carnival, parade, race, photographic opportunity, performance, or similar undertaking in which animals are required to perform tricks, fight, or participate as accompaniments in performances for the amusement or benefit of an audience. The bill would exempt wildlife sanctuaries, accredited zoos and aquariums, institutions operated by the wildlife conservation society of New York, veterinarians, and laboratories from the prohibition. Though the Committee supports this legislation as drafted, the report expresses concern about using any animals in circus performances because all animals are susceptible to the stress inherent in performing tricks in front of large audiences and the stress of continuous travel and confinement, and asks that the Council extend the ban in the legislation to the fennec fox, which is one of the bill’s enumerated exceptions.
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Committee on Animal Law urged that the African lion be added as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (“the Act”). The Act defines endangered species as any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A species may be deemed in danger of extinction because of any of the following factors: 1) there is a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the habitat or significant portion of its range; 2) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes; 3) disease or predation; 4) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or 5) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. The African lion, the letter argues, meets any and all of the criteria set forth in the Act.
Sale, Trade or Distribution of Shark Fins
The Animal Law Committee issued a report in support of A.1769/S.1711, which would prohibit the possession, sale, offer for sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. Shark finning is banned in U.S. waters; however, there is no federal law that bars the sale or possession of a shark’s fin on land and in New York State shark fins are typically consumed by New Yorkers either in shark fin soup or as medicines that are illegally marketed to cure health problems such as HIV, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. In addition to expressing support for the legislation, the report urges that the following two amendments be made to the bill: 1) to provide a grace period that exceeds the shelf-life of dried shark fins; and 2) to omit the exemption for spiny dogfish and smooth dogfish.
Federal Legislation Concerning Animal Law Issues
In a letter to President Obama, the Animal Law Committee summarized the positions that the City Bar has recently taken on Federal bills and rulemaking and urged the Administration to consider these recommendations as the Administration’s objectives for the second term are developed. The letter touches on a broad range of concerns including: 1) the protection of elephants from extinction due to the ivory trade; 2) the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circus acts; 3) the treatment of downed animals; 4) the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobial animal drugs in food-producing animals; 5) the use of live animals to train members of the Armed Forces for treatment of combat-related injuries; and 6) the rules governing fur product labels.
Fur Products Labeling
In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the Committee on Animal Law offered comments on proposed amendments to regulations under the Fur Products Labeling Act. The letter urges the FTC to 1) change the name of Nyctereutes procyonoides from “Asiatic raccoon” to “raccoon dog” in the Fur Products Name Guide; and 2) reject the proposals to allow the use of the terms “finnraccoon,” “tanuki,” or “magnut” in the Fur Products Name Guide to describe Nyctereutes procyonoides. As noted in the letter, the use of the term “Asiatic raccoon” is misleading because Nyctereutes procyonoides is not a raccoon nor is it closely related to a raccoon. It is undisputed that the classification of the Nyctereutes procyonoides is in the canidae family, which includes domestic dogs, foxes, and wolves. Misidentifying the fur of a canid as that of a raccoon violates the purpose of the Fur Products Labeling Act and the Truth in Fur Labeling Act of 2010, as well as the requirement that the name be the “true English name” or “the name by which such animal can be properly identified in the United States” and not a coined name or the name of a fictitious animal.