The Federation is focused on supporting legislation that will help animals and support animal welfare organizations in New York State. There are many pieces of legislation introduced in the State Legislature every year and while the Federation might not take a position on every bill, we do focus on those we feel will have the most impact. The Fed has been very successful in its efforts. Since 2017, we’ve secured the $5 million Companion Animal Capital Fund for capital projects at shelters across New York in each state budget. We passed bills banning the leasing of pet in NYS, enabling local municipalities to shorten the length of stay for unidentified cats that come into shelters, and broadening the residency requirements for peace officers serving the Hudson Valley Humane Society and the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
2023 Humane Agenda: Our top legislative initiatives
Companion Animal Capital Fund: The First in the Nation Funding Stream for Animal Shelter Capital Projects
When the FY22 State budget passed last year, it continued the $8M Companion Animal Capital Fund–an increase of $3M from previous years. Our thanks go to Governor Hochul for including $5M in her executive budget and the Legislature for adding another $3M.
When Governor Hochul released her FY23 budget on February 1st, it once again contained $5M for the Fund. This is great news–showing the executive chamber’s commitment to animal welfare. We will once again go to the Legislature to add another $5M to bring the fund to $10M.
Since the Fund’s first round of grants in 2018, over 50 shelters have benefitted from the $28M the state has invested in shelter capital projects.
The Federation’s 2023 Shelter Capital Needs Survey shows there are 17 shelters with capital needs of $61.3M. The survey showed that 20% of our shelters need to be replaced and another 20% are in poor shape.
We are pushing for increased funding because of the passage last year of one of our signature bills, the Companion Animal Care Standards Act for Shelters and Rescues. This new law, which takes effect in December 2025, details new standards that all shelters and rescues will have to achieve. A good number of these standards has to do with a shelter’s physical plant–flooring, air handling, kennel and cage size, etc. We are working to make sure all the organizations covered under the standards bill are eligible for this funding.
This video was produced for the effort to get the Fund back in the 2021 budget after funding for just about everything was cut in the FY20 budget because of the pandemic. We were successful. But, it doesn’t matter what year–the message is the same, the Companion Animal Capital Fund is vital for the health and well being of our homeless animals.
- Unfit Owner/Animals in Distress. In 1997, New York enacted its first security posting law, designed to assist shelters and their ACO/DCOs in two ways: (a) provide for a means to obtain funding from the accused to care for an animal while in their custody, and (b) establish a means by which the court can order owner surrender of such animal to facilitate best disposition outcome for him/her. This is not a perfect law nor a good fit for all, especially in elderly/hoarding cases, where pursuit of criminal charges is not always the best approach or where there is opportunity to prevent a situation from escalating into misdemeanor cruelty. This proposal would take a page from other states like Florida that have a civil process where a court can deem an owner unfit and order surrender, without having to charge such owner with a criminal offense.
- Animal Crime Victims Fund. This measure would create a post-conviction fund that would reimburse eligible applicants for the reasonable costs associated with holding seized animals pursuant to a criminal case.
- Prohibition of Dog Breed Discrimination in Insurance Policies for Renters. This measure would prohibit insurance companies from cancelling, refusing to issue or increasing premiums on renter’s insurance for owning a specific breed of dog. We passed the same bill for homeowners in 2021, now let’s get it done for renters.
Animal Crimes Package:
- Aggravated Cruelty to Animals, AGM 353-a: Amend definition of Serious Physical Injury. As it currently stands one element that must be proven when pursuing a felony cruelty charge is that the animal suffered serious physical injury (SPI) or death. The definition of SPI is the same definition that applies to human assault cases in the Penal Law, and is extremely hard to prove in animal cases.
- Eliminate mandatory appearance tickets for felony animal cruelty and felony animal fighting crimes. In order to seriously address felony animal cruelty and felony animal fighting crimes, the Pre-Trial Justice Reform Act passed in 2019 needs to be amended to exempt these crimes. Investigation into these offenses and the ability to immediately charge and arraign suspects can play a crucial role in revealing the true depth of the criminal enterprise.
- Recognition of SPCA officers as Law Enforcement. Comprehensive amendments to the Criminal Procedure, Executive, Vehicle & Traffic, Penal law to recognize and expand the scope of SPCA officers’ authority to duly recognize and allow them to fulfill the mission of their organizations and animal welfare partners.
- Include Dog Fighting Under New York’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act Statute. This measure would consider dog fighting as “racketeering activity,” and could punish participants, spectators, owners, trainers, and generally any person involved in the fighting activity. If convicted, a defendant could also be required to pay restitution to cover the cost of housing and medical treatment to animals injured as a result of dog fighting, and also open up the possibility of civil liability, which can be brought by the Attorney General.
- Authorize Restitution for Impounding Organizations in Sentencing for Dog Fighting Convictions. Given the well-established challenges NYSAPF’s member organizations experience regarding the cost of caring for seized animals for unspecified periods, this makes sense to pursue for all dog fighting investigations, not just RICO Act cases.
- Allow Animal Shelters/DAs Offices to Bring Security Petitions Upon Seizure (and Place a Statutory Limit on Stays Pending Appeal). Currently, a shelter holding a seized animal pursuant to a criminal case cannot file this petition until the defendant is arraigned. This is simply far too long for both the shelter and the accused, sometimes months.
Prohibit/Restrict Dogs in Pickup Trucks. Many states, including ME, NH, MA, CT and RI, prohibit placing animals in the beds of pickup trucks. Some states cover all animals, while others just cover dogs. New York has no such law.
Lowering Sales Threshold for State Regulation of Home-based Breeders. Lowers the sales threshold from 25 to 15 dogs offered for sale per year will enable the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets to more responsibly regulate home-based pet dealers. This bill was reintroduced in 2021-22 but took a back seat to
Successes in 2022 Legislative Session
SUCCESS: Companion Animal Capital Fund
The final budget included $8M for the Fund bringing the state’s total investment in shelter capital projects to $28M. The RFPs for last year’s funding have just been released.
SUCCESS: Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill
With massive bi-partisan support, the bill passed both houses and was signed by the Governor in December. In December 2024, pet stores will no longer allowed to sell puppies, kittens or rabbits.
SUCCESS: Companion Animal Care Standards Act for Shelters and Rescues
The Fed has been working on this bill for close to ten years. It is based on the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ 2010 Standards. The bill comes into effect in December 2025. Shelters and rescues will be overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Markets. The Federation’s Education Fund raised $146,000 in grant funding to provide no cost/low cost consulting services to organizations across the state to help them meet the standards.