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Legislator provides a voice for those who cant speak

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | December 20, 2012

LANCASTER- The Lancaster Town Board is standing behind Erie County Legislator Terrence D. McCracken (D-Lancaster, Depew, South Cheektowaga, Alden) sponsored legislation to urge the state to increase felony animal abuse penalties by enacting Phoenix’s Law.

The Erie County Legislature unanimously approved McCracken’s resolution at its Nov. 29 session, and is now calling on the New York State Legislature to increase its penalties for felony animal abuse convictions.

“I am encouraging the New York State Legislature to enact ‘Phoenix’s Law,’ named after the Jack Russell terrier two Buffalo teenagers allegedly doused with lighter fluid and set afire in late October,” McCracken said. “Fortunately, despite horrible burns, the dog, now named Phoenix, has survived and is recovering. But the underlying horrific crime is not at the level of felony that I believe is severe enough to result in adequate punishment upon conviction.”

McCracken said the two teens arrested, Adell Zeigler and Diondre Brown, were charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and might get a maximum of two years in prison, which is nothing compared to all the pain the dog endured. Also, he mentioned that courts tend to plea bargain sentences down so in the end what will their actual time served be for the crime?

“Local law enforcement and the district attorney’s office they’re all saying for what these guys did, they are going to get nothing compared to what they did,” said McCracken.

The law would increase the maximum penalty for felony animal cruelty from two years in prison to four years in prison. It would also double the fine from $5,000 to $10,000.

Furthermore, the legislation will require mandatory psychiatric evaluations for those convicted of animal cruelty.

“We’re trying to push the New York State Assembly and Senate to look at the penalties that go along with animal abuse and mirror the crime and for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to enact these laws,” said McCracken. “Basically, have the punishment fit the crime.”

The state legislature will resume session in January and in the meantime McCracken will be reaching out to other government officials such as Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak for support as well.

Going hand in hand with his advocacy for animal abuse, this past March McCracken introduced a local law to create an animal abuse registry in Erie County. Anyone who abuses an animal will not be able to own animals for a period of five years for a first offense and 10 years for a second offense.

“I’m just tired of picking up the paper and watching the news and seeing all these cases of animal abuse,” commented McCracken. “It just seems like it’s every month there’s some sickening thing people are doing to animals.”

The registry would identify individuals in Erie County who have been convicted of an animal abuse crime to prevent those people from adopting, buying or obtaining animals from any animal shelter, pet seller or other person or entity involved in the exchange of animals by adoption, sale or other means.

The registry would contain the names, residential addresses, birthdates and facial photos of animal abuse offenders living in Erie County, along with the date of each conviction for an animal abuse crime.

The penalty for a person buying an animal while on the list or selling an animal to a person on the list would be a fine not exceeding $1,000. The penalty for a person failing to register and/or update information annually or within 30 days would be a fine not exceeding $500 for each day the person fails to register or update their information.

Animal abusers will have to pay X amount of dollars a year to register.

“So, we’re in the process of straightening out a little bit of language in that, but we’re going to reintroduce the local law and hopefully it moves through quickly in the legislature,” said McCracken.

McCracken added animals are a part of many families and they deserve to be treated well and not be abused.

“We have to stand up for these animals that can’t stand up for themselves,” McCracken remarked.

The next Town of Lancaster board meeting will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, in the town hall, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster.

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