Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A pioneer in animal safety pulls back in New York

NEW YORK — For all its 147 years, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been more than an advocacy group; it has served as the primary law enforcement agency for animal abuse and neglect in New York City.

That role, the first of its kind in the nation, led to a squad of uniformed agents who flashed badges, carried guns, made arrests, traveled in blue-and-white squad cars and, for years, starred in an Animal Planet reality TV show, Animal Precinct.

But now, that unit is losing its bite. In December, the ASPCA laid off most of its 17 remaining law enforcement agents. Their responsibilities will be left to the New York Police Department.

The change is one that has been sought for years by some animal advocates, who said the ASPCA's small enforcement staff couldn't handle the volume of abuse reports and was taking weeks or months to respond to calls police could probably get to in hours.

Others are concerned that without a team focused on animal abuse, it could be given a lower priority by officers dealing with human-on-human crimes.

"If they think they can just give this to regular police officers and have them handle it, they're crazy," said David Favre, an expert on animal law at Michigan State University.

Over the past few years, the ASPCA's humane law enforcement division has handled about 4,000 investigations annually and made about one arrest per week, according to the nonprofit group. Tens of thousands of additional abuse reports came in through a hotline — with tips surging from 2001 to 2008, when Animal Precinct was on the air.

The changes were put into motion in August following the spring appointment of ASPCA president Matthew Bershadker, who previously led the organization's anticruelty division. He has said the NYPD's more than 34,000 officers are simply better positioned to keep up with the huge volume of complaints.

As part of a pilot program, NYPD officers have been handling animal abuse complaints in the Bronx since September, said ASPCA spokeswoman Emily Schneider. "The NYPD has responded in a positive way that illustrates how their size and scope will allow them to enforce animal cruelty laws across NYC better than we could on our own," she said.

Investigator Annemarie Lucas of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with a rescued dog in 2004. ASPCA agents wore uniforms and carried guns.

Associated Press (2004)

Investigator Annemarie Lucas of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with a rescued dog in 2004. ASPCA agents wore uniforms and carried guns.

A pioneer in animal safety pulls back in New York 01/05/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 6, 2014 12:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]