Thursday, December 18, 2008

New York Decision on Animal Cruelty May Have Broad Implications for "Puppy Mills"

A New York City Criminal Court has concluded that a man who failed to provide medical treatment for his dog can be prosecuted for animal cruelty.

Writing in People v. Curcio, 2008KN021343, Judge Michael Gerstein held that the state law prohibiting “Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals [or] Failing to Provide Proper Sustenance for Animals” applied to a man who failed to bring his ailing 2-year-old dog to a veterinarian for at least a week after discovering a tumor on the dog’s hindquarter:

Defendant [allegedly] knew the dog had a mass on its rear end and that Defendant did not and would not take said dog to the veterinarian for medical attention. The Complaint further alleges that because of Defendant's failure to seek medical attention, saving the dog's life required surgery and six days of intensive care and that Defendant's lack of care caused [the dog] to suffer needlessly [and] are sufficient to establish a prima facie case.

This failure, the Judge held, could be construed as “further[ing] any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty" in violation of New York State Agriculture and Market Law.

Therefore, the court denied Mr. Curcio’s motion to dismiss and allowed his case to proceed to trial.

The court’s decision, if upheld and followed elsewhere, could have broad implications against operators of so-called “puppy mills,” in which dogs are often mistreated and over bred. Prior to this decision, many local jurisdictions refrained from investigating or prosecuting mill owners, due to questions regarding the application of state animal cruelty laws to situations where a dog had adequate food and shelter, but may have suffered in other ways.

However, the principles set forth in the Curcio decision could encourage those authorities to be more vigilant against large commercial breeders whose operations inflict needless suffering on companion animals.