Thursday, March 10, 2016

Steuben takes on animal abuse investigations

BATH – Steuben County is taking a more active role in investigating animal cruelty allegations, with the recent appointment of county Deputy Todd Terwilliger as lead deputy. The county Legislature’s Public Safety and Corrections Committee approved the use of trained county deputies to investigate reports of animal cruelty and direct any necessary response to the appropriate authorities. The committee determined assigning a deputy was the most efficient way to deal with allegations of animal abuse after county officials were notified in February 2015 the Finger Lakes Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would no longer investigate animal cruelty charges. Under the plan, Terwilliger will investigate reports of possible animal abuse cases, while also carrying out other duties for the sheriff’s department. He also will refer complaints about other animal issues, such as licensing and control, to the appropriate town official. Typically, investigations lead to recommendations for improved animal care and regular checks to ensure the recommendations are followed. The department also has worked cooperatively with the FLSPCA to establish protocols for notifications of abuse or neglect, and investigations of remediation of the abuse or neglect. County Manager Jack Wheeler said the committee unsuccessfully searched for independent firms and added the Sheriff’s department has responded to roughly 80 percent of animal cruelty allegations since late 2015. Wheeler said the Sheriff’s department has the infrastructure in place to provide a central point of contact for animal cruelty complaints. Steuben has set aside $10,000 to pay the Finger Lakes SPCA in 2016 for direct expenses associated with the removal and care of animal cruelty victims and related support services, including education and aiding in the prevention of animal cruelty. To report suspected animal cruelty, the public should call 9-1-1, who will then dispatch the report. ** In order to create a more seamless investigative model, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department and the Finger Lakes Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will present a one-day Animal Cruelty Investigation training program partnering with the Humane Society of Greater Rochester Director of Law Enforcement Reno Di Domenico, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 24 and March 31at the Public Safety Building. The training will instruct road patrol deputies in the assessment of cruelty cases, in order to assist Terwilliger. It is open to all law enforcement agencies.