Gerbils. The burrowing, mouse-like rodent, was the last straw for Tom Scozzafava. The Moriah supervisor wants to scrap the town’s existing dog ordinance and replace it with an animal control law. He expects town board action on the proposal in 2014.
Gerbils. The burrowing, mouse-like rodent, was the last straw for Tom Scozzafava.
The Moriah supervisor wants to scrap the town’s existing dog ordinance and replace it with an animal control law. He expects town board action on the proposal in 2014.
“You wouldn’t believe the problems we have with animals,” Scozzafava said. “We just got called to remove 100 gerbils that were abandoned in a house. It’s unbelievable.”
An animal control law will help the town better deal with animals issues. The present dog ordinance only addresses canines.
“It used to be dogs and cats,” the supervisor said. “Now people own all kinds of pets. And there’s farm animals, too. There have been issues with horses. We need a law that addresses all these animals and issues.”
Animal issues have increased of late, according to New York State Police Zone Commander John Tibbits. He believes the growing number of abuse complaints are the result of two high profile cases in the North Country — 24 puppies being abandoned by the owners of Northern Puppies in Plattsburgh and 41 malnourished horses being seized from a farm in Essex.
Moriah receives “hundreds” of calls each year alleging animal abuse, Scozzafava said.
“The majority of pet owners are responsible, caring people,” Scozzafava said. “But there are others who don’t care for their animals they way they should. We’ve been getting a lot of calls.”
So many calls the town has set up a temporary dog shelter at its water treatment plant. Animals picked up the town dog officer — which would become an animal control officer when a new law is adopted — can be kept at the shelter for three days before being taken to the Westport SPCA shelter.
Cases involving animals other than dogs are referred to the county sheriff’s department. That would change with a new animal control law.
“Animal control is a huge issue,” Scozzafava said. “It’s a hidden cost to taxpayers.”
Scozzafava related a recent incident in Moriah. A resident was alleged to have abused a dog. After investigation by the town dog control officer, the dog was confiscated and taken to a licensed shelter for care while a criminal case played out. Moriah paid $4,000 for the dog’s care.
There have been several similar cases, he said.
A court can charge the animal’s owner for their care, Scozzafava said, but that’s often not realistic. People either can’t or won’t pay the bill.
The state’s animal control laws are vague and need to be addressed, the supervisor said.
“We get an anonymous call,” he said. “Someone claims a dog is being abused. We send our dog control officer, Ed Roberts, to investigate. He gets there and finds the dog is thin, but there’s a bowl of food sitting next to the dog. Ed takes photos, does an investigation. Is the dog thin or malnourished?
“Only a vet can really make that determination,” he said. “Calling a vet may take some time and it can be expensive. So what’s the right thing to do?”
Moriah calls the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, which has a deputy trained in animal abuse, to make a decision.
“It’s a tough situation,” Scozzafava said. “Neither Ed Roberts or the sheriff’s deputy are vets. We need some clarification. Who makes the abuse determination and who pays for the animal’s care?”