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Animal cruelty laws questioned in a public hearing

New York state wants to know if you think your pets are being protected. The state Committee on Agriculture held a public hearing Wednesday on animal cruelty laws.

Are we doing enough? That's the question New York state lawmakers asked on Wednesday afternoon in Utica.

New York Senator Joseph Griffo helped put this hearing together. He wants to know if people are happy with the current animal cruelty laws. Griffo finds animal cruelty disgusting.

"Anyone who treats a living thing with this callous disregard and downright cruelty really disgusts me," Griffo said.

A group of guests were invited to the hearing. Attendees like Assistant DA Jed Painter, from Nassau County, Long Island, gave their testimony. Painter noted how frustrating it can be to get to the bottom of animal cruelty cases because of the antiquated and ambiguous nature of the laws.

"Laws should be written that an average police officer on patrol should be able to find the law, understand the law, and apply the law, all in the middle of the night at a crime scene," Painter said.

Painter thinks current animal cruelty laws, couched inside old agricultural law, needs some updating because it's leading to criminals getting off the hook.

"I've actually almost gotten to the point of craziness where I've actually wanted to talk to the dog and ask 'Who did this to you? Who tied you up to the stop sign? Where'd you get that scar, and how long has this person had you, and is this the person who did it?'," Painter said.

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara agrees and thinks that the laws for abusing animals should be more similar to those regarding people.

"We first of all make a crime of causing physical injury to an animal, and the next thing that we make a separate crime for causing serious physical injury to a companion animal, and then finally making the most serious crime intentionally causing death to a companion animal," McNamara said.

Utica itself has seen its fair share of animal cruelty crimes recently, with a man accused of starving six dogs to death, and a couple that is said to have neglected a number of mink.