Delaware Supervisors Vote To Create Animal Abuse Registry | Local news
DELHI – A law establishing a county-wide public registry of convicted animal abusers was passed with near unanimous support by the Delaware County Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting on Wednesday, February 24.
The only supervisor to vote in opposition was one whose town has become synonymous with the county’s most high-profile animal cruelty case in recent memory, which inspired the drafting of the law.
Franklin’s owner Nasir Azmat was charged with 41 counts of animal cruelty and neglect after 20 dogs – now known as Franklin 20 – were rescued from an alleged fighting ring on his property last February.
The criminal case against Azmat has been on hold for almost a year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and supporters of the animal abuser registry have condemned the lack of legal means to prevent Azmat from owning other animals in awaiting trial.
“I’m not against the fundamental reason for this,” Franklin Town supervisor Jeff Taggart said. “I think people convicted of abusing an animal should be put on this registry, but I have a problem with anyone convicted of an offense that’s on the list. I have always viewed crime as a second chance. If it’s a reduced charge for a misdemeanor, it gives them a second chance.
Taggart said he disagreed with the wording of the law, which had previously been adjusted to expand the terms by which a person is considered an animal abuser and therefore subject to registry entry.
The original text only provided for those convicted of crimes to be listed, but the wording was changed to “criminal”, legally including minor offenses as well as felonies.
“If they are found guilty of a crime, they should be blacklisted. I agree with that, ”Taggart said. “But if it’s a misdemeanor, I don’t agree with it.”
When asked why his justification would allow individuals like Azmat, who was only charged with misdemeanors, to avoid being on the perpetrator registry, Taggart said he believed Azmat should have been charged. of crimes.
“I don’t know why these were crimes. It should have been a crime, ”Taggart said. “Something like that, the book should be thrown at him.” “
“If we could charge Azmat with 40 felonies, we would have done it,” Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond said.
The New York Agriculture and Markets Act, which sets the standards for animal neglect and abuse, does not include any provisions relating to animal abuse charges, DuMond said.
“Our laws need more teeth, so to speak,” said DuMond. “We are limited to what is contained in the law. This local law is supposed to fill these gaps.
Several people attended a public hearing on the law held virtually before the meeting, including Jill Stafford, a resident of Sidney, a volunteer with the Delaware Valley Humane Society who helped draft the law based on her rescue experiences and rehabilitation of Franklin 20.
“I think we are very lucky to live in a county that does not experience a widespread amount of animal cruelty, but we have had some high profile cases over the past few years where we needed long term accountability. for those who do this stuff to animals, ”she said. “I think our MPs are doing a great job of enforcing agriculture and market laws as well as they can and as much as the law allows, but this local law will take it to the next level.”
Delaware Valley Humane Society Shelter Director Erin Insinga thanked DuMond and his assistants for their dedication to seeking justice for the Franklin 20s and other victims of abuse.
“I work with a lot of different counties and a lot of different agencies and I always come back to being so grateful to be a part of Delaware County,” she said. “We are still leading this fight for these animals. I wish we didn’t need this registry, but there is a need.
Delhi resident Marie VanValkenburgh, who addressed the board in person, tearfully described the neglect and abuse she witnessed as a longtime Heart of the Catskills volunteer, including cases where animals were left locked in houses when their owners moved, locked out of houses while their owners traveled out of town and those who were “so hungry their ribs showed”.
“None of these owners have been arrested. Many have left the area, ”said VanValkenburgh. “The shelters are left to pick up the pieces while the good citizens look away. “
“If you are not ready to denounce a neighbor who mistreats animals, to testify against him and to see him convicted because your children went to school together, their family has been here for five generations, or their big -mother goes to your church, then you have to vote against this resolution because you are perpetuating animal abuse, ”she continued. “Voting for a well-being resolution is like wrapping up your waste and tying it with a pretty knot. “
“Our # 1 goal, as law enforcement and as a society, should be to always stand up for helpless souls,” DuMond said. “Anyone who tortures or mistreats a helpless victim is the worst kind of human being. “
Sarah Eames, Editor-in-Chief, can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.