Schenectady County

Schenectady County gives SPCA animal-control enforcement power

The Schenectady County Legislature will give the local animal cruelty society jurisdiction to enforc

The Schenectady County Legislature will give the local animal cruelty prevention society jurisdiction to enforce animal control and licensing laws throughout the county under an agreement expected to be made at a news conference this afternoon.

Mathew Tully, chief of the Schenectady County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said SPCA peace officers will be able to write dog license tickets under state Agriculture and Market Law under the agreement.

Tickets will be issued under the criminal provisions of the law, rather than the civil provisions, meaning they will be treated as misdemeanors and not violations, he said. The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office will be responsible for prosecution.

“We wanted someone to write the tickets everywhere in the county, and the county will codify this into the law,” Tully said.

The county Legislature is expected to introduce a local law enacting the agreement at its November meeting.

Fines collected through the tickets, totaling about $25, will be split equally between the SPCA and the county. Each would use the money for animal enforcement purposes, such as paying to house and care animals seized by SPCA officers, Tully said.

Under the contract, which is expected to take effect Nov. 15 and last a year, the county would help maintain the SPCA’s sole vehicle, which it uses to investigate animal cruelty allegations and to transport seized animals to shelters.

Tully said the SPCA will focus primarily on investigations of animal cruelty and will occasionally run zero-tolerance events on dog licensing, similar to the DWI sweeps law enforcements runs.

“By us going out there and cracking down on dog licensing, more people are likely to comply with the law,” Tully said.

He said all log licensing fees go directly to the municipality where the dog resides.

The agreement ends litigation over control of animals the society seizes in investigations and raids. The SPCA filed a lawsuit in state Supreme County two weeks ago after the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office refused to accept a dog and 44 cats the society seized from the Suffolk Avenue home of Michelle Regel.

“This agreement resolves the issue with the sheriff, but we would use this law with any municipality with a police force,” Tully said.

“Schenectady County is the first county to do this for us, but it is not the first county to do so. Suffolk and Nassau counties have similar agreements with their SPCAs,” Tully said.

In its lawsuit, the SPCA cited state Agriculture and Markets Law that designates the sheriff’s department as the agency charged with taking custody of and ensuring care for an animal belonging to someone arrested by an officer of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner last week said the agreement will “usher in a new era of dog control and animal control in Schenectady County and will directly address the problem of vicious dogs in the city.”

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