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SPCA of Westchester Announces Major Humane Law Enforcement Initiative Program Includes Dedicated enforcement staff and 24 7 Hotline


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									        SPCA of Westchester Announces Major
          Humane Law Enforcement Initiative

                       Program Includes
          Dedicated enforcement staff and 24/7 Hotline
           County’s Only Humane Law Enforcement Agency Moves
                  To Strictly Enforce Animal Cruelty Laws

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, NY (September 2006) – The SPCA of Westchester announced
that it is unveiling an enhanced comprehensive Humane Law Enforcement program to
save animals from abusive situations in Westchester County. As the only private agency
in the county mandated by New York State to enforce animal cruelty laws, this proactive
effort to prosecute animal abuse will position the SPCA at the forefront of animal
protection in the region.

Key elements of the initiative include:
    • A fulltime Chief of Humane Law Enforcement, supported by a staff of eight

    •    A 24/7 hotline for reporting suspected animal abuse or neglect.

    •    An increased presence of uniformed Humane Law Enforcement officers
         patrolling Westchester County.

The SPCA’s new Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) Division investigates suspected
animal cruelty throughout Westchester County, including complaints of animal cruelty,
pet shop investigations, and seizure of animals in jeopardy. Under New York State’s
Agriculture and Market Act, Article 26, the SPCA of Westchester is authorized to enforce
the animal cruelty statutes. Responses can vary from a simple “Notice to Comply” with a
subsequent follow-up visit, to arrests for misdemeanors and felonies. The HLE Division
is working cooperatively with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in
prosecuting cases.

Animal cruelty, as defined in New York State, is the intentional effort to hurt or kill pets
and other companion animals (as opposed to wildlife) or the failure to provide adequate
food, water, shelter or necessary care. Typical complaints range from unsanitary living
conditions, horses worked continually in spite of crippling arthritis and meager feed, to
those of flagrant neglect resulting in injury or death of a companion animal. Calls are
received regularly to report animals left alone in basements, homes, garages, cages or
cars for days and even weeks.

“Other cases involving improper care of animals can result in a cruelty charge,”
explained Ken Ross, Chief of the Humane Law Enforcement Department at the SPCA.
He cited the example of “Henry,” a shepherd mix, whom the SPCA removed from a
home in Mount Vernon. “As Henry grew from a puppy into a large dog,” Ross said, “the
owner never loosened his collar. This resulted in slow strangulation.” The collar, which
had become embedded in Henry’s neck, had to be surgically removed.

The Humane Law Enforcement Department

Ross, 49, a resident of Tuckahoe, was appointed Chief of the Humane Law Enforcement
Division of the SPCA of Westchester in April of 2006. With a professional background in
private security and investigation, he brings over 20 years of experience to the SPCA.

"After the 9/11 attacks, I wanted to find a way to devote my time and talents to a worthy
cause that also fit my personal interests," said Ross. “I was surrounded by animals
growing up -- my parents would adopt stray dogs and they became part of our family. I
believe in treating animals with kindness and respect for their individualized needs.”

The HLE department responds seven days a week to calls placed to the SPCA of
Westchester’s 24-hour hotline, (914) 941-7797. Anyone who suspects that a pet or
other animal in Westchester County is being abused or neglected is advised to report
what they have seen to one of the operators standing by, who will then immediately relay
the report to the HLE Department. All calls are confidential, and callers can choose to
remain anonymous.

“We currently receive from 50 to 80 calls per week. About a third are wildlife related, a
third are questions about animal care, and the remainder are alleged cruelty cases
where an animal’s life or well-being may be in danger,” said Ross. “We respond to each
call and then decide the best course of action..”

“Calling the SPCA hotline, day or night, is an effective weapon in the arsenal against
animal cruelty. Indifference and ignorance can result in injury as easily as violence.
Animals don’t have a voice, so we must act on their behalf,” said Dr. Gail Foreman, the
SPCA of Westchester’s Executive Director.

The Humane Law Enforcement Agents at the SPCA have police powers under the
specific legal statutes of the State’s Agriculture and Market Laws. Humane Officers can
seize pets from abusive environments and arrest owners if they believe the pet to be in
grave danger.

In addition to Ross, there are two other Peace Officers and six volunteer civilian
investigators in training. One Peace Officer is Ross’s son, Ken Ross, Jr. Ironically,
when growing up, the younger Ross did not have pets due to allergies. He subsequently
outgrew the allergies and has embraced animals. Today he dedicates his work to
protecting them.

Ken Ross, Sr. believes that much animal cruelty can be prevented with education on
proper care and treatment. “Some people do not understand the implications of leaving
an animal at home alone for a few days,” he said. “They don’t consider that a cat could
knock over its water and then have nothing to drink. Education can reduce the cruelty
cases that come simply from not knowing what is right, and we can focus on the
purposefully cruel and abusive situations.”

Dr. Foreman concluded: “We are empowered by the State of New York to enforce
animal cruelty statutes and take this responsibility very seriously. With our new
organization, structure, and personnel, we are significantly increasing our efforts to see
that animal cruelty and neglect cases across Westchester are handled quickly and

Founded in 1883, the SPCA of Westchester Inc. is a not-for-profit humane organization
chartered as the only animal cruelty prevention and intervention agency in Westchester
County. Each year its agents investigate over 1,500 cases of suspected animal abuse,
resulting in steps to correct the problem if evidence of cruelty is found.

The SPCA of Westchester has volunteers who foster dogs, cats or other animals for a
minimum of two weeks and up to four months – offering a refuge for abused animals and
animals in need of a clean, safe and loving environment. These foster homes help
animals’ transition between abusive environments and permanent, loving homes. The
SPCA has contracts with 18 municipalities in Westchester, whereby the agency must
accept strays from those municipalities. More information about the SPCA of
Westchester including its Humane Law Enforcement Department; volunteer
opportunities such as the Animal Foster Care Program; dogs and cats available for pet
adoptions, is at www.spca914.org, or you can call (914) 941-2894.

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