News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2013
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LAUNCHES NEW ANIMAL PROTECTION INITIATIVE
Statewide Effort Will Promote Enforcement Of Consumer Protection Laws, Target Animal Fighting & Animal Cruelty
Schneiderman: I Am Committed To Protecting New York Consumers And The Right Of Every New Yorker To Live In Safe Communities
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the formation of a new Animal Protection Initiative aimed at shutting down criminal animal fighting rings, ensuring compliance with New York State’s Pet Lemon Law, charging those who abuse or neglect animals, and cracking down on the abuses of so-called “puppy mills” in order to protect the welfare of the animals being sold and the consumers. Drawing on resources from the Office of the Attorney General’s regional offices as well as many of the Office’s bureaus, this new initiative will use civil and criminal remedies to target allegations of animal cruelty and unscrupulous sales of pets and other animals.
In announcing the new Animal Protection Initiative, Attorney General Schneiderman also highlighted a string of recent successes in combating animal cruelty and related issues. Today, he announced a civil settlement with a Yonkers pet store that was keeping animals in unsafe and inhumane conditions. The settlement includes a $20,000 fine and an agreement that the store cease its illegal activities.
“Fighting animal cruelty is both a consumer protection issue and a public safety issue,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “There is a direct correlation between the dog fighting rings and other criminal enterprises, including gangs, gambling and illegal drugs, that put our communities at risk. At the same time, New Yorkers spend millions of dollars each year on the companionship a pet can provide. I am committed to enforcing our state’s consumer protection laws and protecting the right of every New Yorker to live in a safe community.”
Protection of Consumers from Unscrupulous Pet Sellers
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, more than 50 percent of New York households include at least one pet. In addition to the cost of purchasing pets, the average pet owner spends hundreds of dollars to care for them. New York’s Pet Lemon Law is aimed at ensuring the good health of cats and dogs sold in the State.
New York Law grants consumers very specific rights when they purchase dogs and cats from pet stores. For example, consumers have the right to know the source of the dog or cat they are considering for purchase, and the history of vet treatments. If a consumer purchases a sick dog or cat and a veterinarian certifies the animal as unfit within 14 days of a sale, the consumer has the right to a refund, exchange, or reimbursement of veterinary costs up to the cost of the pet.
Consumers have the right to ask questions about the breeders used by pet stores and receive accurate information in return. For example, if a breeder is a large scale breeder – commonly referred to as “puppy mills” – the consumer has the right to know. The OAG will monitor whether pet stores are being honest and following the law and bring civil or criminal prosecutions where appropriate.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The OAG’s Initiative will also target those who abuse or neglect animals. One example of such types of abuse is dog fighting, which is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. New York has multiple statutes addressing animal abuse, including animal fighting. For example, an animal fighting conviction can result in up to 4 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
In addition, animal abuse can be a “gateway crime” that destabilizes communities. Many communities report growing involvement of juvenile and other offenders in dog fighting or animal abuse, often as a part of gang involvement. This has created an underground environment that often includes other criminal activities, such as illegal gambling, possession of illegal weapons and drugs. Raids on dog fighting rings often result in the arrest of many offenders with outstanding warrants.
The Attorney General’s Animal Protection Initiative will promote public safety by cracking down on individuals or groups that abuse or neglect companion animals; pursue criminal animal fighting enterprises; and protect consumers who do not wish to purchase sick or diseased animals from in-state or out-of-state “puppy mills” by ensuring compliance with New York’s consumer protection laws.
The Initiative is comprised of Investigators and Assistant Attorneys General across the entire state, from the OAG’s Regional Offices, the Consumer Fraud Bureau, the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, the Organized Crime Task Force and the Investigations Bureau, who will work to bring the perpetrators of these and other animal crimes to justice.
“We are thankful to Attorney General Schneiderman for his persistent leadership in combating some of the worst forms of animal cruelty and protecting both the animals and people of New York State,” said Stacy Wolf, vice president and chief counsel of the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement and Legal Advocacy departments. “The new Animal Protection Initiative sends a clear message that perpetrators who engage in animal cruelty will be held accountable for their actions.”
“Animal protection laws are only meaningful if put to use, and Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to robust enforcement can make New York State a national leader in the effort to protect animals from willful cruelty,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “This initiative says loud and clear, to everyone, that there’ll be a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse.”
In recent months, the Attorney General’s office has conducted several successful efforts related to animal cruelty and animal abuse. Today, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his office has reached a settl