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Animal Protection Coalition Minutes 6/22/10

Animal Protection Coalition of St. Lawrence County

Meeting Minutes 6/22/10

Attendees:

Dana Henry, Paul Boyer, Judy Boyer, Dr. Tony Beane, Nicole Duve, Bonnie Boyd, Amber Lindsey, Bea Schermerhorn, Dr. Gary Bennett, Mark Manske, Kevin Wells, Bart Tuttle, Carrie Tuttle, Dr. Sophia Theodore, Jackie Pinover, Steve Boutot, Robin Boutot, Rita Rinke, Dr. Cindy Swingle, Peggy MacCadam, Sue Siedlecki, Dr. Don Russell, Brook Betty, Dr. Carie Telgen, Wendy Hall, Jonas Borkholder, Danny Parker, Dr. Dorothee Janssen

Introductions were made by attendees.

C. Tuttle provided an overview of the purpose of the coalition and this particular meeting. For reference on committee see www.potsdamhumanesociet.org; details on the coalition are under RESOURCES/ANIMAL CRUELTY.

N. Duvé and K.Wells provided an overview of the legal process for investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty/neglect cases.

Open discussion followed and is summarized below.

T. Beane reiterated the need for the District Attorney’s office to develop a release form so that vets are not held liable for speaking to law enforcement when the animal owner says it is okay. D. Janssen mentioned that the American Veterinarian Association may already have a release form. (Could one of the vets that has access to this assoc. please check?)

T. Beane also question who would pay for veterinarian’s expenses if they are to get involved in a cruelty case. K. Wells and N. Duvé explained that they have paid vet bills in the past, although there is not a specific account set up for those particular costs. Several veterinarians at the meeting mentioned that they would not charge for their time for simple cases just for laboratory analysis, ex-rays, supplies, etc. N. Duvé stated that the state could request that those fees be paid back as restitution but that it would ultimately be up to the judge and whether or not the person had the means to pay the fees. D. Russell mentioned that historically there had been county monies to pay for vets. K. Wells said there hasn’t been a specific fund in more than 14 years but there could be a potential to use some general funds since there are not usually more than a couple a year that would require vet testimony.

N. Duvé noted the importance for issues to be documented by photos and first hand witness statements and stated that it is very important to have expert veterinarian testimony for felony cruelty cases. She recognizes that professionals are busy and her office does what they can do make the process work with everyone’s schedules when cases do go to court, although actually going to court for these cases is rare. When veterinarians are required, it is important for the same expert to be involved from the beginning of the process. Sometimes it is helpful to just be able to speak with the animal owner’s veterinarian to get a feel for the situation. When cases are brought to court, the process can be very lengthy. C. Tuttle explained that the length of the cases would not be of such concern if the animals were removed from the owner so that they cannot be abused or neglected further while the legal proceedings are worked through their course.

Through the efforts of this committee, the group plans to develop a comprehensive list of veterinarians and animal experts that will be willing to assist in cruelty cases. A basic list of all veterinarians in St. Lawrence County and some wildlife rehabilitators has been developed and is posted at www.potsdamhumanesociety.org

The question was raised about anonymous complaints. N. Duvé explained that they cannot “stand alone” to make a case. However, anonymous complaints can be made to law enforcement and if they can observe the neglect or abuse then law enforcement may be able to document it sufficiently. Clarification was provided that search warrants have to be issued by the Court, not the district attorney’s office. Application for search warrants comes from law enforcement officers.

S. Boutot questioned what the process is when local law enforcement doesn’t investigate to complainant’s satisfaction. K. Wells explained that the complainant will be referred back to the supervisor of the first law enforcement agency that was initially contacted. C. Tuttle reminded everyone that they should follow up on their complaints to make sure they are satisfied with the investigation – and if not keep calling!

It was confirmed that there is a Northern New York veterinarian society, but that the organization is not very active and not all vets in St. Lawrence County belong.

C. Telgen offered to volunteer some time to assist with animal cruelty/neglect issues, but explained that multiple week trials would be difficult to support. K. Wells clarified that usually the trial only requires a one day event for testimony. N. Duvé explained that most of the prep work is actually done over the phone.

The question was raised as to how much a large animal examination/report would cost. D. Russell said it would likely cost about $130. D. Janssen said that a case involving multiple animals would require a fee and suggested that a fund be established to pay for lab costs; she also suggested that perhaps the NNY vet assoc. could establish a fee schedule. Some vets may be willing to volunteer some of their time. C. Tuttle reminded the group that the costs to prosecute animal cruelty/neglect cases are costs that the county should be incurring just as they are incurring costs to investigate child abuse or other crimes.

D. Russell explained that as an employee of NYS Ag and Markets that he had to get permission to attend the meeting. He also explained that, as a vet he can render a 2nd opinion provided he obtains permission from his Spvs; which is likely to be given but he can’t be the primary vet. He said he could be available to help on a limited basis and that there would not be a fee charged for his services. D. Russell also mentioned that he bought ASPCA manuals and has loaned them out to law enforcement for reference. He has been involved in these type of cases for 25 years and his focus is on getting the animals out of a bad situation.

C. Tuttle asked any vets or animal case specialists that would be willing to help to email her with the specifics of what they would be willing to do.

The question was raised as to whether SLC will hire an Animal Cruelty Investigator. K. Wells explained that a special investigator would not be hired but that police officers do get base level training on animal cruelty and neglect. C. Tuttle explained that one of the goals of this coalition was to expand animal cruelty education.

B. Boyd noted that since the establishment of this committee some local judges have become more educated about cruelty issues so progress is happening in Village of Potsdam.

K. Wells said that people should ask for a supervisor when making a cruelty complaint.

D. Janssen asked if there were statistics maintained by the county on animal cruelty/neglect. K. Wells explained that those statistics are available and that their database is used to check names and address which can help identify repeat offenders. He will prepare a summary report for the next meeting.

The question was raised as to how law enforcement would respond if they received a complaint for a thin horse and the owner said that the horse was receiving vet care. K. Wells said that law enforcement would confirm by asking for their vet’s contact information and then they would call the vet.

The question was raised about getting donations to fund this group’s efforts. C. Tuttle stated that at this point she would like to focus on the short-term goals of the committee and then she plans to report back to the county. She cautioned that donations should not be funding efforts that are already part of the county’s responsibility.

Several attendees agreed that a large part of the efforts needed to address animal cruelty and neglect need to focus on education; from the animal owners, to the judges that must decide the cases.

Some discussion took place regarding the difference in large and small animal cruelty laws and the lobbying efforts of some agencies to treat large animals differently. D. Janssen thinks there is a provision that may allow reporting for large animals.

B. Schermerhorn mentioned that the Farm Bureau has a member, Susan McDonahue, on their task force that does training. John Kaplan has contact information for her.

D. Russell mentioned an article he recently read about the compatibility of dairy farming and animal welfare compatible. This is a huge issue facing farms right now. (A copy of the article is requested.)

A. Lindsey asked if there are guidelines for ACOs that have to go on properties to investigate. D. Parker mentioned that he would like some more training for ACOs on gray areas and how they should be handled so he is able to better recognize potential neglect; possibly provided by vets.

All were reminded that everyone should report any and all suspected incidents of animal cruelty or neglect and not to assume that someone else is “taking care of it”.

D. Janssen mentioned that she thinks the cruelty laws speak to “lack of sustenance” and that can be used to mean lack of vet care, although there is no direct language in the law that says owners have to provide vet care. She also offered to do some short courses for law enforcement ACOs, maybe even those accused of animal abuse/neglect.

Meeting was adjourned without reviewing action items from last meeting. Next meeting to be scheduled in July. Details will follow.

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