A controversial animal rights bill that included a section allowing for the immediate euthanization of shelter and rescue animals deemed to be too physically or psychologically damaged to be saved has been amended to exclude that clause after the lawmaker was hit with a barrage of death threats.
“I had to get the state police involved,” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) said Tuesday. “It’s risen to such a level I can’t even tell you.”
The legislation, which came to be known as the “quick kill” bill, would have allowed any animals entering a shelter or rescue to be put down if they are “so maimed, diseased, disabled or infirmed so as to be suffering irremediable psychological or physical pain,” — without a hold time.
Questions raised over what constitutes psychological pain and whether suffering can be diagnosed immediately even by a qualified veterinarian and two other people, as specified in Paulin’s original bill, led the lawmaker to rethink the language.
“There has been a lot of controversy and a large public outcry,” Paulin said. “There needs to be further conversations and rather than hold up the bill, it’s better to put that piece aside.”
Paulin’s staff has compiled a file of the worst emails she’s received regarding the issue. In one such correspondence, the disgruntled writer states, in part, “Get off your high horse, you sick troll, have some sympathy for the lives of others not just your own.”
Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who initially supported the bill, dropped his name as a co-sponsor last week, after receiving some 200 emails a day from concerned community members and residents from all over New York State.
“I specifically took a closer look at the portion that would allow for theeuthanasiaof animals brought to shelters that were deemed to besuffering irremediable physical orpsychological pain,” Moya said in an email statement. “I found that there were technical issues with the language and its subjectivity which led me to withdraw my co-sponsorship from the bill.”
Mike Armstrong, a spokesman for Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), who is also a co-sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The newly amended bill will leave the state law regarding animal euthanization as is, which could be a lot worse because it is antiquated and vague, according to Nancy Perry, a spokeswoman for the ASPCA. It calls for death when an animal is “so maimed, diseased, disabled or infirmed so as to be unfit for any useful purpose,” — also without a hold time. The law further provides that animals, even those in good health, can be put down if they have not been adopted or the owner located within five days.
Paulin said that it is unfortunate that animal rights activists “extracted two words from a good bill” and tried to jeopardize its passage. The legislation “reunites pets with their owners, calls for immediate veterinary care and forces shelters to offer strays to rescues prior to euthanasia,” Paulin noted.
Lori Carpino of Heavenly Angels Animal Rescue in East Elmhurst was one area activist to pan Paulin’s original legislation. She cited a case in which a four-and-a-half-month-old pitbull named Mercy was struck by a car on Jamaica Avenue and then dragged. She was left laying in the middle of the sidewalk until some good Samaritans brought her to an area veterinarian and then to Heavenly Angels.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Carpino said. “If a bill like that were to pass, 90 percent of the animals here would have been killed upon entering the shelter system. [Mercy] came here hit by a car. Obviously, she was in pain. Obviously, she had psychological trauma — but that doesn’t mean she should have been killed.”
Mercy, a friendly canine with warm eyes and a wagging tail, had suffered a broken leg and toes, and road rash from her skin scraping against the pavement. She was depressed and lethargic.
But a week later, with proper medical care, lots of love and good food, she has already gained two pounds and is lively and vibrant, according to Carpino.
Mercy isn’t the only pooch at Heavenly Angels with problems. A four-year-old white chihuahua affectionately known as “Sammy Circles” has neurological problems that causes him to constantly run around in rings, but he is quite friendly and is also adoptable.
Another white chihuahua who periodically has seizures is receiving medical treatment at the facility and has a sign posted on its cage that says “Do not touch me,” but he should be ready to enter a loving home soon. Other animals also have special notes on their cages — one advises that an experienced dog walker is needed for a canine in the hound family prone to running, another warns that a black and brown striped cat is known to try and escape.
The animals at Heavenly Angels, presently about 90 dogs and 40 cats, come from the streets, city shelters, puppy mills or are dropped off by owners who can’t or don’t want to care for them anymore.
Marc Richards, a staffer at the center for the last year, said they will do just about anything to save an animal. He sat in a chair with a large grey pitbull named Phoenix licking his nose and criticized the “quick kill” bill.
“It defeats the purpose of a shelter,” Richards said. “It’s supposed to be a place where a dog or a cat can live until they are adopted.”
Bobbi Giordano, owner of Bobbi and the Strays, a nonprofit no-kill animal rescue organization, with an adoption center in Glendale and a shelter on Long Island, expressed similar sentiments.
“I could never do that,” she said of the bill. “I have to give them my last breath. I bring them to the vet, and I do everything I can to save them.”
About 10 years ago, Giordano rescued a badly burned shih tzu from Animal Care and Control, before she could be euthanized. The canine, which Giordano named Lacey, has been a loving pet ever since, but she does have some problems — a neurological condition that makes her run in circles and sometimes she doesn’t like to be touched.
Giordano said her group helps hundreds of animals every day, some that are blind, bald from severe allergies or have a myriad of other problems, but she believes they all deserve a chance at a happy life.
“We have saved animals that were close to death,” Giordano said, “and now they are in loving homes.”
Animal food drive
Animal activist Melissa Miller of Howard Beach will be collecting donations of wet and dry unopened pet food through March 31.
Miller will travel to anywhere in the five boroughs to pick up the food. It will be distributed to Heavenly Angels Animal Rescue, Bobbi and the Strays and the Sean Casey Animal Rescue. Miller can be reached at (347) 592-3342.