Letter: Westchester D.A. Discusses Animal Cruelty

  • Comments (22)
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – For many of us with pets, a dog or cat is lovingly treated as a member of our family. For some, an animal is seen as a target for maltreatment or physical abuse.

Abusive behavior toward any animal is not only cruel and disturbing – it is illegal. As district attorney and chief law enforcement officer in Westchester County, I would like to share with you the work my office is doing in cases of animal cruelty.

Animal cruelty is defined in New York law as any act of violence or neglect that results in unjustifiable pain and suffering of an animal. This not only includes denying a companion animal or pet the basic necessities such as food, water and shelter, but leaving a companion animal in a vehicle exposed to extreme weather, hot or cold, without protection. New York’s aggravated cruelty to animals law makes it a felony when a person intentionally kills or causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with no justifiable purpose. Engaging in animal fighting, which includes training, breeding, selling, owning or possessing animals for the purpose of fighting, is also a felony under New York law. And our New York State laws against sexual misconduct include the sexual abuse of an animal.

As district attorney, I pay close attention to cases of animal cruelty, not only because the behavior is inherently cruel and repulsive, but because these cases raise important public safety concerns. Research tells us that a person’s mistreatment of an animal is associated with a likelihood of his or her committing further violence or criminal acts against humans. We also know from research that a child who abuses an animal may have either witnessed or experienced violence at home. For these reasons, I consider it extremely important to identify, thoroughly investigate and appropriately prosecute animal cruelty cases that occur here in our county.

On my staff, I have a specially trained assistant district attorney who is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of these cases. This assistant collaborates with local police departments and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Westchester (SPCA) to maximize the effectiveness and impact of the work in this area. Her expertise also extends to police training rooms, where she teaches officers and veterinary personnel throughout the region in identifying, investigating and collecting evidence, including DNA, in animal cruelty and animal fighting cases. This assistant district attorney also speaks to children in local classrooms about animal cruelty and the cases we prosecute in this area, with the ultimate goal of promoting kinder treatment of animals and each other.

Recent cases that have resulted in convictions and jail sentences show the importance of our work. In Rye, a concerned resident set up a concealed security camera in his apartment and recorded the building superintendent unlawfully entering the apartment and sexually abusing the resident’s dog. The superintendent was arrested, prosecuted and convicted of burglary and sexual misconduct against the dog. The defendant was sentenced to 6 ½ years in state prison.

When a Yorktown man intentionally killed his girlfriend’s dog by yanking the dog’s collar so hard that he snapped the dog’s head off its spine, the Yorktown Police and the SPCA investigated. DNA evidence was recovered and linked the defendant to the crime. This man was convicted of aggravated animal cruelty and sentenced to 13 months in the Westchester County Jail.

In another crime, what began as a drug investigation by Yonkers Police resulted in the discovery of a dog fighting ring run by a Yonkers man. Sixteen dogs, some emaciated and some severely injured, were found in a garage behind his home. In the end, three of these dogs had to be euthanized and 13 were taken to shelters. This defendant was prosecuted and convicted on drug and animal fighting charges, and was sentenced to five to nine years in state prison.

Our work in the area of animal cruelty is an important priority for us. If you see an animal being mistreated or you are aware of a case involving animal cruelty, please help by contacting your local police department.

Click here for more information on the work of the District Attorney’s Office.

  • 22

Comments (22)

All animals, especially pets that we welcome into our homes, are God's precious gifts to Humans and we should be held responsible for their health and safety. Kudos to District Attorney Janet DiFiore and her staff on their criminal enforcement of those who foster animal abuse.

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All animals, especially pets that we welcome into our homes, are God's precious gifts to Humans and we should be held responsible for their health and safety. Kudos to District Attorney Janet DiFiore and her staff on their criminal enforcement of those who foster animal abuse.

I am completely opposed to animal abuse and support these efforts to stop it. But I am also disturbed by Americans who see prison as the solution to society's ills. Longer prison terms for these offenses just means that more money will go to the corporations that build prisons. The US incarcerates many more people than any other country (in the world!) and our murder rate is also one of the highest. How can more prisons be a solution to anything? I don't think that longer terms will make animals or human safer. There are better ways to solve this problem.

This was very uplifting and encouraging to read.

However, it seems strange coming from a community that this past summer signed off on the roundup and destruction of nearly 400 Canada geese mostly for reasons of convenience.

Canada geese are extremely peaceful animals devoted to their mates, siblings and offspring.

Ms. Difiore defines animal cruelty as "any act of violence or neglect that results in the unjustifiable pain and suffering of an animal."

Does not roundup, being stuffed 4 to 6 to turkey crates and transported hundreds of miles away in summer heat for gassing or slaughter represent "unjustifiable pain and suffering? Slaughter alone is an act of violence.

The capacity to suffer terror, pain and injustice is not limited only to cats and dogs.

We need to look at our relationships and treatment of all animals, not just the ones we deem personal favorites.

Thank you for making animal cruelty a priority. Animal cruelty rarely occurs in a vacuum and is often linked to domestic violence, drugs, and other crimes. As other commenters have noted, it would also be helpful if we could extend this justice to wildlife, such as Canada geese, who are slaughtered in Westchester County.

Thank you for speaking up on behalf of our animal companions who endure abuse on a daily basis. As you say, abusive behavior toward any animal is not only cruel and disturbing but -illegal. Why then is it permissable for the county to allow the round up and slaughter of defenseless Canada Geese and their goslings during their most vulnerable stage- during their molt when they are unable to fly -at different sites throughout Westchester- last year at Sprain Lake Golf Course and this year they are looking to slaughter a total of 9 geese at the Library Pond in Scarsdale?

Why is it ok to fight for the rights of one animal and not another? Why would a Canada Goose mother and her young goslings not count?

Just curious.

Excellent questions MBA raises.

Anyone who has ever observed a family of Canada geese will see the same loyalty, devotion, steadfastness and courage that we so admire in our pet dogs.

They should be granted similar considerations and concerns.

Thank you for being the voice for those who can't speak for themselves. We need to raise awareness. As SpokesDog for NYS Animal Advocacy I urge everyone to get involved. Be part of NYS Animal Advocacy Day June 4th in Albany! http://www.facebook.com/nysanimaladvocacyday?fref=ts

Thank you so much for reconizing our animals! They cannot speak for themselves! They are forcrd into situations they have no control of!!! I am an animal advocate, especially dogs!!! All kinds of animal abuse should be a felony!! God bless you for your compashion and drive to protect our animals!

Thank you Janet DiFiore for your ability to bring forth the awareness, That cruelty to animals will not be tolerate, and enforcement will be punishable upon consenquences... Society has so much complaints on animals leaving their droplets on the grounds, but society has forgotten, that many ages ago these lands were the animal grounds, and many industries, schools, Department store, ect, are built on the grounds where the animals once roamed freely... When individuals complain about bears, wolves, ect, coming toward your properties, you should have gotten concrete advise and certainty that no animals were still running wild, I feel so bad for the animals who are left without resources to live a normal envoirmental life as the people do, because society landscaping have built properties without placing the wild animals in secure location, in which they can adapt to in time. More individuals need to get together and share there indifferences, and spread the news all over society countries, finding more solutions to help the animals are a great way to spend rich time...It dosent even cost you a dime to get together and email the message out to come across with ideas and send them to the right higher ranks...

"One can judge the heart of man by its treatment of animals". I applaud Janet DiFiore and her department in her efforts to prosecute those convicted of animal abuse. It has long been known that the abuse of animals is the initial maladaptive act leading to more serious types of abuse.

Animal cruelty should never be tolerated, my family and friends completely support District Attorney Janet DiFiore's quest to prosecute these criminals to fullest extent of the law. However, we feel prison terms are too short for these inhumane acts, we need to fight for longer prison terms. When these criminals are finally released from prison, they should share a similar fate as sex offenders (public registry for animal abusers)

That philosophy should apply to the Canada geese roundups in Westchester County and a proposed roundup in Scarsdale. You don't think that geese suffer unjustifiable pain when they're rounded up and gassed? Or that such actions send a message to younger generations that says it's okay to kill whatever gets in your way? During a study of the habits and behaviors of geese (and their interactions with humans), I gradually became aware of a disturbing ‘disconnect’ between children and wildlife. Rarely a day went by that I didn’t see students bully, torment or harass adult geese and goslings, once chasing a newborn gosling until it was near death from exhaustion. Another time I saw a child come up behind a goose and kick it as though it was a football. I called the police and an officer came out and talked with the boy’s parents. I began documenting the abuse to illustrate the need for public awareness of such violence. You have to wonder how far is it from bullying a goose to bullying a classmate. I commend your interest in keeping domestic pets safe but that concern should also extend to wildlife.
The Scarsdale geese could also be used as a way to bring the community together. The solution is simple. Plant shrubs around the library (geese don't like obstacles), fence off that section of the lake (a tiny fence will do; nothing fancy) or clean up after the geese as part of park maintenance. In my community, the maintenance crew sprays the sidewalks daily; volunteers clean up extra feces, which is biodegradable and basically harmless. The volunteer effort gives us a chance to meet and greet our geese, many of whom have given names. Like most geese, they fly in and out so we enjoy seeing them when we can.

Thank you Ms. Simms for speaking out for the geese. I wholeheartedly agree, and as a resident of Scarsdale I am fighting for their lives.

That's EXACTLY what I thought when I read the article on animal abuse. Thank you, Mary Lou Simms, for including wildlife - especially the Canada geese.

Thankfully, there is no more child or spousal abuse and the DA has time to go after this.

The DA has time to go after crimes of any nature. That's what we pay for. If you check the scientific literature on the topic of animal abuse, you will see that it is linked with domestic violence, child abuse, drugs, murder, and many other crimes.

Thankfully, the DA is capable of addressing two important issues at the same time.

Is she supposed to wait until there is no more abuse among humans to do something about animal abuse?

This made my day!!! So happy that finally someone is taking animal cruelty seriously and to the next level!!! I can only hope that other counties take your lead and maybe one day, just maybe we will not hear about such sad acts of cruelty. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

As an active animal advocate I'm so thrilled to hear how involved you are with animal rights and animal safety. I think the punishments should be long terms in jail because every serial killer started off hurting animals I believe that anyone who hurts an animal has no empathy heart or soul Thank you for making this a mission of yours.