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Statewide subcommittee formed by NY DAs to combat animal cruelty


A few weeks ago, a dog now known as Charlie was found inside a frigid garbage tote. Crimes like that across the state will see increased attention moving forward.  The District Attorney’s Association of New York is setting up a subcommittee in hopes to prevent and prosecute crimes against animals.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said there are various subcommittees in the DA’s association like sex offense to help combat issues statewide.

“We decided that it was important to create an animal cruelty subdivision to kind of collaborate among ourselves statewide and be able to investigate and prosecute animal abuse cases,” said Flynn.

SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Browning says it’s great seeing the community come together to address this issue, just like they did with Charlie.

“The only reason the SPCA was able to give this dog a second chance is because some Buffalo sanitation workers found in a garbage tote and did something about it,” Browning said. “They didn’t see an animal who was barely alive and ignore it. They didn’t turn their heads. They took responsibility and did something for this dog.”

The city recently passed legislation that can punish pet owners who leave their dogs out in extreme temperatures. Something Flynn says is already being enforced in many parts of the state.

“We as a society now are recognizing that animals deserve this focus,” Flynn said. “They deserve the attention that law enforcement can give them properly. That is why the 62 DA’s across the state voted unanimously to set up a subcommittee.”

Erie County Assistant District Attorney Erin Hart has been appointed to the subcommittee. She’s been overlooking all crimes committed against animals in Erie County and now will contribute to the statewide effort.

“We have worked very closely with Erin prosecuting some of the cases that the SPCA has furthered,” Browning said. “It’s excellent news to know that she’s going to be taking that work further. It’s also excellent to read that our own DA voted in favor of forming this animal crime subcommittee. It’s encouraging. It’s definitively a step in the right direction.”

Browning said the next step is to educate the public on the different types of animal cruelty.

“There’s your violent animal cruelty and there’s the type of action that New York State calls animal cruelty which could be, for instance, a hording situation. We can’t treat an animal hoarder the way that we treat, I’m going to use the term monster, who perpetuates or is involved in any way in dogfighting. You can’t look at those situations and make a sweeping generalization of animal cruelty,” she said.

Browning believes a lot of animal cruelty situations come down to individuals coming forward when they see animals are being abused. She hopes this subcommittee will encourage more people to just that.

Flynn said animals are among the most vulnerable victims because they cannot speak for themselves.

“The more and more that I see animal cruelty, as an owner of two dogs, the more and more that concerns me. And the more and more that I feel this is a crime that needs to be taken seriously. They need to be investigated and they need to be prosecuted,” Flynn said.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.