A legacy for Grace: Valesky signs on as co-sponsor for animal abuse legislation

— Valesky, as a member of the state senate’s Agriculture Committee, was familiar with the proposed legislation before, but he was spurred to sign on as a co-sponsor after a petition was circulated via Change.org. The document was authored by Stefanie Heath-Higgins, president and co-founder of Cuse Pit Crew, a Syracuse-based group that advocates for pit bulls and related breeds and seeks to “refuel the human-animal connection in the city of Syracuse through community outreach and educational programming.”

“We believe that Grace will be the vehicle for change in New York state,” she said. “We cannot allow other animals to suffer at the hands of their owners. The Central New York community can come together to make a change for these animals. They need a voice, and we can be that for them.”

The petition had garnered more than 1,800 signatures before it was sent to Valesky’s office, but the issue had already been on his radar for some time.

“Actually, the Agriculture Committee held a hearing in Utica last spring, because they’ve had a similar situation,” Valesky said. “It seems to be obvious to me that the way to address it is to move the animal cruelty statutes from NYS Agriculture and Markets Law and put it into the penal law, where the penalties for other crimes exist. That’s something that’s actually been suggested by law enforcement. The district attorney’s office in Utica actually said that if we were to do that, it would give them more tools to go out and crack down on these offenders.”

Though the bill didn’t make it to the senate floor when it was first introduced earlier this year, Valesky said he hopes to see action on the bill when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“I’m hopeful that when the new session does convene, there will be a push toward getting this resolved,” he said. “I think companion animals give so much comfort to so many people. How we treat them is important as a society. We ought to be doing everything we can to send a message that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.”

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