New law bumps up penalty for stealing Fido, Kitty

From the Journal News:

A new state law increases the maximum fine for stealing, harming or transporting someone’s pet from $200 to $1,000, the first time it has been raised in 44 years.

The number of pet thefts is on the rise, according to the American Kennel Club. More than 590 pets were stolen across the country in 2013, 31 percent higher than in 2012, the group said.

Assemblyman Steve Otis, D-Rye, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he is hoping the larger penalty will send the message that theft of pets is a serious crime. The legislation, which took effect Wednesday, applies to dogs, cats and other companion animals. He said he had wanted the fine increased to $5,000, but it was reduced during the legislative process.

“It also is a message to pet owners to be careful about where their pets are, that they don’t leave their pets in settings where they can be stolen,” he said.

People will receive the new maximum penalty for removing a collar or identification; enticing, seizing or harassing a pet while it is being held, led or while properly muzzled; or transporting the animal for the purpose of killing or selling it. The existing punishment in the law of up to six months in jail remains the same.

Stolen animals often are sold to unsuspecting families for a profit or to research facilities or puppy mills, said Otis, who owns two Labrador retrievers, Teddy and Winston.

“For many New Yorkers, a pet can be an extension of their family — which is why pet theft is a particularly heartless offense,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a 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.”