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North Country SPCA board member Jessica Hartley speaks to Essex County lawmakers about the need for a task force on animal cruelty. Photo: Chris Morris, courtesy <em>Adirondack Daily Enterprise</em>
North Country SPCA board member Jessica Hartley speaks to Essex County lawmakers about the need for a task force on animal cruelty. Photo: Chris Morris, courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Animal cruelty task force forms in Essex County

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A new task force is being formed to deal with animal cruelty in Essex County. Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas, supervisor of the town of Jay, said last week he will appoint county lawmakers and officials to the proposed task force, which will also include members of local humane societies and county residents. Chris Morris reports.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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Jessica Hartley of the North Country Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spoke to supervisors about animal cruelty issues in Essex County last week. She says there’s an urgent need to improve animal welfare in Essex County.

“It’s really an issue that affects each and every one of our towns,” Hartley said. “It certainly is not isolated to just one or two specific areas within the county. In the last month alone we have had at least six new cases of animal cruelty in this county. A couple of things to note about these cases, these are not ambiguous cases, they are very clear cut sort of outright cases of either aggregated cruelty or gross neglect.”

Hartley spoke about "the link"—a term used by social service and animal welfare groups to discuss the correlation between animal cruelty, domestic violence and child abuse.

“Really, the takeaway from all of this is that history of pet abuse is one of the foremost significant indicators that someone will become a domestic batterer,” she said.

Hartley said 71% of pet-owning women who check in at domestic violence shelters report that their abusers also hurt their pets.

“Animal cruelty is really the hallmark of sociopathic behavior,” she said. “If you take a look at the history and childhood of any notorious serial killer—Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz—you will see a pattern of abuse in their histories.”

Hartley said the big challenge is to find a better way to prosecute people for animal cruelty. She said local and state laws on animal cruelty need to be improved.

Hartley said education and training is also important, not just for local animal control officers but also for town justices, police officers and other officials.

Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said there’s a need for updated town and county laws on animal cruelty.

“We have to sort of take it into our own hands at this point and maybe sit down and start going over what we can do locally until the state amends the statute,” she said.

Sprague said if towns enact local law to tighten up current statutes, her office will prosecute.

Hartley said the task force will track cases of animal cruelty in Essex County. It will also look for links between animal abuse and domestic violence, and try to toughen up town and county laws.

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