Running in Place

Seth Victor

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so the saying goes. I’m not one to abide by that logic, especially when thinking about animal law; if everything stayed the same, all of the tireless advocacy would be for naught. The progress might  trickle at times, but it does happen.

Yet today I read two articles that, juxtaposed, forced the maxim to mind. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has announced that her office supports adding animal cruelty and dog fighting under state penal law, as opposed to the current agriculture law that houses these offenses. Long Island has been pushing for stronger law enforcement for animal abuse in recent years. Suffolk County created the nation’s first animal law abuse registry  in 2010. Moving century old laws into criminal enforcement would certainly be another step in demonstrating the seriousness of these offenses.

Drive two hours west on I-78, however, and look at Allentown, PA. The Huffington Post reports that the state office regulating dog breeding is out of money, and is not enforcing regulation aimed at punishing breeders who do not comply with breeding restrictions. Pennsylvania’s Dog Law Enforcement Office (DLEO) did not revoke or suspend any breeding licenses in 2011, and regulations monitoring “puppy mill” operations has been poor at best. This is hardly inspiring progress.

It comes down to money, of course, or rather its management. The money allocated to the DLEO has been spent on salaries of workers not associated with the office. That’s one problem. The other is that states are still citing the recession for a slew of financial issues, and people are forever occupied with creating jobs, unemployment and retirement benefits, and cutting taxes. When state’s are strapped for cash, anything extra is going to go to these concerns, if only because that is how politicians keep their jobs. While there are some few brave leaders, animal rights are always going to take a back seat to financial security, and in turn the money that could be spent enforcing animal cruelty penalties will be spent before it gets there.

Election buzz topics are not going away any time soon, if ever. We cannot wait for other problems to be solved before we tackle this one. As ever, we the people must show lawmakers and leaders that animal cruelty is a primary concern, on par with taxes, terrorism, and education. If not, for every Nassau County initiative, there will be another poorly financed law that isn’t being enforced in any meaningful way, and we’ll just be running in place.

One Response

  1. I agree.

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