Lej committee votes down animal abuser registry


The Monroe County Legislature will not take up a proposal to establish a countywide animal abuser registry. Instead, a Republican legislator will submit a memorializing referral -- essentially an official letter in support of state or federal legislation -- calling on the state to create a registry.

Democratic Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot submitted the proposal to create a local registry. Under that legislation, people convicted of any of a list of animal abuse crimes would have to register for 10 years, and most shelters and pet sellers wouldn't be able to transfer or sell an animal to anyone listed. Existing state laws are inadequate when it comes to keeping convicted abusers from acquiring new pets, Lightfoot said. He pitched the proposal as a way for the county to progressively and proactively address the issue.

Democrats asked Republicans not to vote down the proposal if they had concerns, but to work with them to revise the legislation. Lightfoot said that four other New York counties have passed similar laws. But Republicans voted it down anyway during last night's Agenda/Charter Committee meeting -- a typical fate for Democratic proposals in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Eight people spoke in favor of the legislation and one person spoke against it. The supporters said that he proposal would bring public attention to animal abuse, which often predicts or accompanies domestic abuse or violence. It also would keep people with a history of animal abuse from acquiring another animal, they said. Supporters acknowledged that the legislation was imperfect since it would only cover Monroe County, but they said it was important nonetheless.

"It is something we can do, and I encourage you to make it a reality in Monroe County," said Alice Calabrese, president and CEO of Lollypop Farm. Calabrese never indicated that she was speaking on the organization's behalf, however. 

Republican Legislator Jeff McCann raised technical concerns about the proposal. And he and the other GOP legislators on the committee, Mike Rockow and committee chair John Howland, said that a statewide registry would be a better solution. And Rockow used the opportunity to knock the State Assembly for failing to pass legislation matching a Senate bill to establish an animal cruelty registry for anyone convicted under Buster's Law. The state does not currently have a registry for people convicted of animal abuse.

Rockow said he plans to submit a memorializing referral calling on the Democrat-controlled Assembly to pass a matching bill.

In his introductory remarks, Lightfoot said that rejecting the proposal would be "political garbage." After McCann questioned him about technical aspects of the proposal and Rockow began asking for abuse statistics, Lightfoot asked for the questions in writing so he could have staff respond. And when it became clear that the legislation wasn't going to pass, Lightfoot, who doesn't sit on the Agenda/Charter Committee, left the meeting.