Three Schenectady County men are seeking to form a Saratoga County chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to enhance the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in the county.
Their goal is to establish a new enforcement organization, said their attorney, Jonathan G. Schopf of Clifton Park.
The men, James Friello of Niskayuna, James R. Piazza of Scotia and James R. Piazza II of Niskayuna, as the proposed SPCA board of directors, last week filed a petition in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa asking a judge to authorize creation of the chapter as a private, non-profit organization.
The petition was filed after the group petitioned to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City in July for approval. They have not heard back, which allows them to take the matter to court.
"The law is kind of a carryover from a long time ago," Schopf said. "The law provides that if they don't hear back within 30 days, you can petition to have it created judicially."
State law allows for only one SPCA chapter per county, he said.
Schopf said two of the proposed directors, Friello and Piazza II, are state-certified peace officers, which gives them some law enforcement powers.
Schopf said animal cruelty cases in the county are now handled by state police or the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office if law enforcement action is required, and he believes a new organization can help handle those cases.
"They hope to take some of the burden off the sheriff's office to enforce these kinds of law," said Schopf, who is also a county supervisor representing Clifton Park. "It is a specialized kind of prosecution."
He said a meeting is already in the process of being set up with Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo, to determine whether the sheriff's office and proposed SPCA chapter would work together.
The group does not plan to set up an animal shelter. There is currently a county-operated shelter in Milton which takes abandoned and stray dogs, cats, and other animals, and Schopf said the chapter would work with that shelter.
Schenectady County also has an SPCA chapter that focuses on law enforcement, with all-volunteer peace officers.
Matthew Tully, founder of and currently a director of the Schenectady chapter, said he didn't think the new group could legally receive the county charter. He believes the charter for the county is held by the SPCA of Upstate New York, which is located in Warren County.
"Many years ago Schenectady was interested in getting into Saratoga, and Upstate said we couldn't do it," Tully said. "They produced documentation to me at the time."
An official at Upstate, which was originally chartered in Washington County, wasn't available for comment. While its shelter is in Queensbury, Upstate operates a pet adoption site at the Wilton Mall in Wilton.
The Piazzas and Friello are not active in the Schenectady SPCA chapter, and Tully said he does not know them.
Montgomery County has an SPCA chapter that operates a shelter, but does not enforce animal cruelty laws itself, leaving that to local police agencies.
A spokeswoman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which was founded in 1866 as the first animal welfare organization in the country, said it isn't an umbrella organization for local SPCAs.
"While New York law does provide for the ASPCA’s approval of SPCAs seeking to incorporate within the state, it also allows this route to seeking incorporation via court order," spokeswoman Kelly Christoff said in an email.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.