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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:30 am

State hikes fine for stealing a pet 5-fold as incidents escalate

The penalty for dognapping has quintupled from $200 to $1,000, and the fine’s applicability has been expanded to include all “companion animals,” under a new state law signed last week by Gov. Cuomo.

The law also applies to harming someone else’s pet. Conviction on either act already carries a possible six-month prison sentence, which remains unchanged. The measure passed both houses with no dissenting votes.

The increased fine comes in response to a dramatic increase in pet theft. According to the American Kennel Club, the number of dogs reported stolen nationwide jumped from 71 in 2008 to 458 in 2012 to 609 last year.

The most commonly stolen dogs, in order, were Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Labradors and French poodles. Thieves often seek purebreds to sell or breed them. The bill’s sponsors noted that many types of dogs and cats can be sold for far more than the old $200 fine, which was set in 1970.

“For many New Yorkers, a pet can be an extension of their family — which is why pet theft is a particularly heartless offense,” Cuomo said in a written statement. “Increasing the penalties for stealing or harming dogs, cats and other animals is an important way that we can crack down on this crime, and I thank the bill’s sponsors for their work on this issue.”

Aiming lasers at planes now a state crime also

While pointing a laser at an airplane is already a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine — plus an $11,000 penalty from the Federal Aviation Administration — it’s now a state crime too.

Gov. Cuomo last week signed a bill that makes shining a laser at aircraft a class A misdemeanor, with a possible prison term of one year; or a class D felony, with a potential sentence of four years, if the action forces a serious change in course or other disruption that puts passengers and crew in danger.

The point, according to state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Jamaica), who sponsored the bill in the upper house, is to enable local law enforcement authorities to prosecute offenders.

Noting that Kennedy International Airport is located in his district and is used by seven million passengers a year, Sanders said in a written statement, “I believe this law will avoid future aviation disasters and save countless lives.”

Laser-on-plane incidents have jumped more than 1,100 percent since the U.S. government started tracking them in 2005, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There were 99 reported at airports in and around the city in 2013, up from 71 in 2012. The FBI is temporarily offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a perpetrator.

Institutional building starts up 11% in ’14

Public and private institutions in the city started $643 million in construction projects in the first five months of 2014, an increase of 11 percent over the same time period last year, according to a new study released by the New York Building Congress.

Institutional building accounted for a smaller share of all construction starts in the first five months of the year than it had last year, however: 6.8 percent vs. 12 percent for all of 2013. The sector includes public and private schools, hospitals, libraries, cultural and religious institutions and the courts.

The biggest such project started this year through May is a $58 million building being put up by the NYU School of Medicine. In Queens, big projects noted in the report include a $36 million renovation of PS 163 in Flushing and a $20 million job at the Campus Magnet High School building in Cambria Heights.

Last year, the biggest start citywide was the $68 million construction of PS 315 in Corona.

The study is seen at buildingcongress.com.

Summer photo contest!

The Queens Chronicle’s Sixth Annual Summer in the Borough Photo Contest is underway — and we’re waiting for your entry to arrive! Find the rules online at bit.ly/1pV4sLs.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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