Legislation that would substantially increase the penalties for stealing companion animals, such as pet dogs and cats, has passed the State Legislature, according to its sponsors, Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) and Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye).
The bill, A8185B/S7684A, which now moves on to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his consideration, would increase the penalty from $200 to $1,000, with a possible prison term of six months, for the act of stealing a companion animal.
"Increasing the deterrent penalties to this crime will reduce mistreatment of animals and send a strong message that these thefts will be treated seriously," Grisanti said. "Pets are members of our families and, as such, deserve better protection."
Otis stated, "There has been an sharp rise in reports of stolen pets, yet New York's penalties have not increased in over 40 years. It is my hope that stiffening the penalty will reduce the number of animal thefts and prevent the cruelty that comes with this serious crime."
Thefts of pets or companion animals are growing in popularity. The American Kennel Club reported a 27 percent increase in the number of dog thefts in the five-month period from January to May 2013. These animals are often resold to unsuspecting families for a profit or, worse still, sold to research facilities, puppy mills or used as bait for fighting dogs.
The penalty for pet thefts has not increased since 1970, when it was modestly raised from $100 to $200.
"Clearly, the penalties for this terrible offense have not kept pace with the economic incentives for such thievery," Grisanti and Otis said. "Only a stiff penalty will deter criminals from engaging in this heinous act."
This new legislation aligns New York with other states throughout the country that have established comparable fines for pet thefts. The bill passed the Assembly June 11, and was approved by the Senate June 18.
"If this bill can keep one person or family from suffering the devastating loss of a beloved pet, it is definitely worth doing," Otis and Grisanti said. "We call on Gov. Cuomo to sign the bill into law this year."