Capital Region lawmakers have introduced legislation that would authorize police to charge an irresponsible dog owner with a felony if their dog seriously injures someone. The penalty would be up to two years in prison and a fine of as much as $5,000. Judges would have discretion to impose the harshest sentences for the most serious cases, according to the sponsors, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Schenectady, and Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna.
The legislation would allow search and seizure of illegal materials. It would enable further investigation if an owner of a dangerous dog had been convicted previously of a violent crime. Gangs and drug dealers often use dangerous dogs as weapons or status symbols or for animal fighting.
There have been several recent cases of attacks by dangerous dogs, including in Schenectady, Rochester, New York City and Long Island. In Schenectady, 59-year-old Shirleen Lucas was attacked and disfigured by three pitbulls while walking home. The dog owner was offered a sentence of 30 days in jail, even though she had been cited twice before for having dangerous and unlicensed dogs, according to the lawmakers.
In Rochester, a pitbull attacked six people as the owner slept in a lot near the House of Mercy in October, according to WHAM.
“The Dangerous Dog Owner Deterrent Act targets criminally irresponsible dog owners who raise their dogs to be vicious weapons and is not limited to any one breed of dog because any dog can have a bad day,” Tedisco said in a statement. “Owning a companion animal is not a right but a privilege and it’s up to dog owners to be responsible for their pets. Dogs should be raised as companion pets, not trained to be killers.”
Tedisco successfully sponsored Buster’s Law, which created the felony of aggravated cruelty to animals.