Friday, 16 March 2012 00:00
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has been honored by being named one of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) “Top Ten Animal Defenders” nationwide for her creation of the office’s first specialized unit dedicated entirely to the investigation and prosecution of animal crimes.
Since its creation in February 2010, the Animal Crimes Unit, led by Assistant District Attorney Jed L. Painter, has drastically increased the number of investigations into animal cruelty and neglect and seen the number of people arrested for animal crimes skyrocket. In the 24-month period prior to the unit’s creation, eight people were arrested in Nassau County for animal-related crimes, none of them felonies. In the 24 months since the unit’s creation, there have been 40 arrests, including 10 felonies, and the Animal Cruelty Hotline has fielded more than 1,200 calls.
“The leadership of Ms. Rice and the great work of her staff demonstrate an exceptional commitment to the aggressive prosecution of those who abuse animals,” said ALDF Sr. Attorney and Criminal Justice Program Director Scott A. Heiser. “From the formation of an animal cruelty taskforce to the ‘no holds barred’ approach in animal fighting cases, Ms. Rice sees the value in going the extra mile to protect these voiceless victims and for that, ALDF thanks her.”
“Abused and neglected animals have no voice to speak out against their abusers, so it is essential that we in law enforcement speak for them,” Rice said. “I am incredibly proud to be honored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, as it proves that we are on the right track to defending innocent animals and holding their abusers accountable.”
The Animal Crimes Unit handles all felony and misdemeanor cases, including animal abandonment, severe physical abuse, domestic violence-related abuse and criminal neglect, such as food or water deprivation, lack of medical care or shelter. This also includes abuse related to gang-run dog-fighting rings.
DA Rice wishes to thank the ASPCA Blood Sports Division and its directors, Terry Mills and Tim Ricky; the Animal Lovers’ League and its president, Joan Phillips; the North Shore Animal League; and the staff of all municipal animal shelters in Nassau County for their invaluable contributions and assistance to the Animal Crimes Unit.
The ALDF was founded in 1979 by attorneys active in shaping the emerging field of animal law and has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.