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Should those who harm pets during criminal activity face additional penalties?

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the day for people everywhere is being greeted at the front door by their favorite pet after a long day at work or school. Indeed, the reality is that the bonds many people have with their pets are so strong that they view them as more than just friends, but rather as part of the family.

Interestingly enough, lawmakers here in New York are currently considering a measure that, if passed, would introduce incredibly strict penalties, some of the harshest in the nation, for those who injure pets during the commission of a crime.

State Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville) has introduced a bill, dubbed “Kirby and Quigley’s Law” after two dogs slain during a burglary, that would make it a felony to harm a companion animal when committing criminal activity — even by accident.

Those convicted would face a $5,000 fine and two years in prison in addition to the punishment for the underlying criminal offense.

Some have likened the measure to felony murder, which enables prosecutors to bring homicide charges against those who unintentionally cause the death of another during the commission of a serious offense. By way of example, consider a pedestrian who is fatally struck by a getaway car during a robbery.

Political experts indicate that Kirby and Quigley’s Law faces something of an uphill battle. Indeed, this marks the sixth time that Tedisco has introduced some iteration of the measure, with the five previous iterations being defeated in Assembly committees.

As for the sustained reluctance in the Assembly to pass the legislation, several lawmakers have expressed concerns that the bill is 1) overly broad given its use of the term “companion animals,” 2) unnecessary given the existence of the state’s animal cruelty law, and 3) misguided in that is meant to deter cruel acts, yet punishes unintentional actions.

As for the status of the bill, it passed the Senate on a 59-2 vote last month and is once again in the Assembly.

What are your thoughts?

If you or a loved one has been charged with any manner of criminal offense — felony or misdemeanor — consider speaking with a skilled legal professional able to protect your rights and your future as soon as possible.

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James L. Riotto
Criminal Defense Lawyer

James L. Riotto is an accomplished criminal defense attorney serving clients in New York. With an extensive background in law enforcement and criminal prosecution, his approach to each case is unique and informed by years of experience with the New York criminal justice system. As a graduate from Albany Law School and before going on to start his own practice, James worked at the Albany County District Attorney's Office, where he helped prosecute many DWI offenses. His inside knowledge of the tactics used to gain convictions provides him with a particular advantage when defending against DUI and other criminal charges.

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