Kelly proposes animal welfare oversight committee

Montgomery County legislators like the idea of a county department to deal with animal abuse and cruelty, but they have some questions about enforcement of any proposed regulations.

County Executive Matthew Ossenfort had asked District 1 Legislator Martin P. Kelly to chair a commission to study the possible creation of a county department of animal welfare investigation and cruelty prevention. On Tuesday, Kelly presented a detailed proposal for such a department, including a 15-member oversight committee consisting of one large animal veterinarian and one small animal veterinarian, three Montgomery County legislators, two additional county residents, and representatives from the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, the county Soil and Water District, the Ayres Memorial Animal Shelter, the county SPCA, the Amsterdam Police Department and the county Sheriff’s Department.

The oversight committee would work with the new department to review current county and state laws relating to animals and would serve as a review board for the department in cases involving the issuing and revoking of permits, as well as recommending changes in county laws, fees and fines to the county legislature.

Under Kelly’s proposal, pet sellers or breeders would have to obtain permits to sell, barter or exchange any pet within Montgomery County. The new department would issue permits only after the applicant proved that the animals are “raised and maintained in a safe and healthy manner,” according to the proposal. Pet sellers would be required to hold permits–renewable annually at a cost of $200– and submit periodic sales records to the department. Sellers also would pay 2 percent of their annual sales to the county. Animal shelters which are “dedicated to the care of unwanted animals” and offer such animals for adoption would be exempt from the permit fee structure, according to the proposal.

District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell said Tuesday that he favored most of what was in Kelly’s proposal but was concerned about enforcement of its regulations.

“What everyone is struggling with is enforcement,” Purtell said. “Can we work with the towns to have a uniform code? Then you can talk about the enforcement of it.”

Legislature Chairman Thomas L. Quackenbush also talked about enforcement.

“I don’t think anybody is questioning [anything in the proposal],” Quackenbush said.. “It has nothing to do with the law, but with the enforcement.. I would hate to see [the proposal] not pass because of that aspect of it.”

Kelly said he talked to officials from each of the 10 towns in the county about his proposal with what he called “mixed results.” His proposal include the hiring of two part-time employees to handle enforcement of the regulations. These employees would have to have an associate’s degree in animal behavior or five years of experience in the field, and would be required to attend training offered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets twice a year to keep up with current information.

Kelly said at a previous meeting that he would like to hold two informational forums in addition to the public hearing that would be required in order to establish the department. No sessions have been scheduled as yet.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.