New York Bill Would Make Horse Abuse a Felony

New Yorkers accused of animal cruelty involving a horse might face felony charges if a bill recently introduced into that state's General Assembly becomes law. Under current New York law, animal cruelty involving horses is a misdemeanor.

The bill, A1566, sponsored by Assemblyman James Tedisco, would amend animal cruelty laws contained in New York's so-called Buster's Law to include equines that are pets or companion animals. Buster's Law, which was passed by New York lawmakers in 1999, amended previous animal cruelty statues to make it a felony to abuse domestic animals such as dogs and cats, said Tedisco's Chief of Staff Adam Kramer. Under Buster's Law horses are currently designated as farm animals. A1566 would make it a felony to maltreat a horse used for recreational purposes such as jumping, showing, or for rehabilitation. Under the bill, horses used for those purposes would be considered pets or companion animals, Kramer said.

"The bill does not cover horses that are used in racing, farming, or breeding," Kramer said.

Cathy Cloutier, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Upstate New York, calls the bill a step in the right direction.

"It tells (people) that these are living, breathing animals that depend on us," Cloutier said.

However, Jeff Williams, manager of Governmental Relations for the New York Farm Bureau, said designating horses as pets rather than livestock could have negative tax and other revenue implications for some members of the state's equine industry.

"The bill could cause the owner of a small boarding and training barn or someone who operates a business giving trail rides to lose their agricultural considerations," Williams. "Also, after you designate horses companion animals, where to you go next, llamas or other (farm) animals also in some cases kept as pets?"

New York state lawmakers will take up A1566 when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2012. Meanwhile, the bill has been assigned to the Assembly's Agricultural Committee.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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