Commission to eye welfare of animals

FONDA – Montgomery County’s executive implemented his first executive order Tuesday to establish the creation of a county Animal Welfare Investigation & Cruelty Prevention Commission.

Matt Ossenfort said in his Feb. 28 State of the County address he would be executing the creation of the animal commission because he thought it was “necessary” and “needed to be recognized.”

The commission’s goal will be taking care of three main tasks – looking into puppy mills, animal cruelty and the sheltering of animals following a disaster.

Ossenfort said he noticed a lack of shelters for pets during the flooding in Fort Plain last June. Ossenfort said he thinks the sheltering of animals in emergency situations slips most people’s minds.

“What happens when you try to evacuate a street or a little community because you know a flood is coming and the residents say ‘no way, I’m not leaving my dog here?'” he said. “We have a really tough time getting people out of their houses because they don’t want to leave their animals, and frankly, I can’t blame them.”

The creation of the commission was sparked by a new state law. The law authorizes municipal governments to enact more stringent laws for regulating and licensing pet dealers.

The law says any new local law must be at least as stringent as the state law and must not result in the banning of the sale of dogs and cats raised in a safe and healthy manner. The state Department of Agriculture and Markets will continue to enforce existing state laws pertaining to animal care by pet dealers.

Ossenfort said the commission will need to be careful because it wants to help animals, but at the same time it doesn’t want to harm local farming.

“It’s a delicate balance,” Ossenfort said. “We have a strong farming community in Montgomery County and we want to make sure we’re not hurting them. Our commission is going to have to take a look [at local laws] and make some recommendations.”

District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly, the chairman of the commission, said the group will consist of representatives from the production animal industry, representatives from all the county shelters and the Montgomery County SPCA, large and small animal veterinarians, county legislators, Amsterdam’s animal control and the sheriff’s department.

Kelly said the commission will meet to brainstorm ideas and work with laws to bring to the Legislature to vote on, regarding ways to end or prevent future animal cruelty and help shelter animals in emergency situations.

Kelly said he also wants to implement safeguards for situations where there is no animal cruelty.

“This [commission] is important to me and it’s personal because I have three dogs of my own,” Kelly said. “It hurts me every time I see an animal cruelty case. We need to help end animal cruelty in this county. On the other hand, we also need to have safeguards in place for production animals. People don’t understand why farmers do things the way they do. Farmers do it with compassion but it’s also being done for business, and we have a lot of farming in this county.”

Kelly said the commission will meet and start working in the next few weeks.