Lawmakers to air animal abuse task force idea

Lawmakers in Montgomery County will begin discussions this week on developing an animal abuse task f

Lawmakers in Montgomery County will begin discussions this week on developing an animal abuse task force modeled after one created in Rensselaer County last year.

Charleston Supervisor Shayne Walters, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors’ general services committee, said he was approached with the idea by a concerned citizen hoping to address the issue of abused animals in an organized fashion.

Rensselaer County’s Animal Protection Coalition is made up of a group of volunteers including veterinarians, and others in law enforcement and the animal industry. Many have specific knowledge of animals and the signs of abuse.

According to legislation that created it, the Animal Protection Coalition of Rensselaer County has several goals including educating animal owners, finding places to bring animals seized in an investigation and to provide a basis for a search warrant and make sure abused animals are examined by a veterinarian.

The Rensselaer County group has a list of sources available for law enforcement when an investigation is considered, said coalition member Brad Shear, executive director of the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society.

Shear said the group makes it possible to work with those unfamiliar with proper animal care for the betterment of the animals.

The important part of legislation, Shear said, is having a government body indemnify individuals who act as part of the group in case they are sued for their work.

Walters said he doesn’t believe the state provides sufficient help to localities dealing with animal abuse, and said a coalition of people knowledgeable in animal issues could be helpful.

“We’d get a group of different agencies so they’re all on the same page,” Walters said.

Such groups could also help educate law enforcement as to the signs of animal abuse and signs that animals are not maltreated, Walters said. “If an officer knows what to look for, you can go in. In some cases, there’s nothing to complain about,” Walters said.

Walters, who watched a local dog breeder’s trial on animal cruelty charges end in acquittal, said more detailed information during the onset of an investigation could also help prosecutors enforce laws in the courts.

The county committee is scheduled to meet at 7 tonight at the county Board of Supervisors’ Chambers on Broadway in Fonda.

Categories: Schenectady County

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