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We couldn't let the day pass without commenting on the usually high number of animal-cruelty decisions that were published this past week.

On Thursday, March 30, 2006, we reported on the Appellate Division's criminalization of "goldfish abuse." Just one day later, on Friday, March 31, 2006, the New York Law Journal (on page 24, column 1) published People v. Mary Dawn SItors, a decision by the Honorable Judge George R. Bartlett, III, of Schoharie County, wherein the Court was asked to determine whether the starvation of horses comprised a violation of New York State's animal-cruelty law.

Section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets Law provides as follows:

"A person who overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats or unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates or kills any animal, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another, or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or neglects or refuses to furnish it such sustenance or drink, or causes, procures or permits any animal to be overdriven, overloaded, tortured, cruelly beaten, or unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or killed, or to be deprived of necessary food or drink, or who willfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal or any act tending to produce such cruelty, is guilty of a misdemeanor...."

Despite the statute's unequivocal language, a Town Justice determined that "so long as the animals are alive, there cannot be a finding of animal cruelty ...."

On appeal, rational minds prevailed and Judge Bartlett set aside the Town Court's determination. Judge Bartlett found that animal cruelty encompasses a "broad range of acts or omissions" and cited to a long line of cases which instruct that "'cruelty to an animal includes every unjustifiable act, omission or neglect causing pain, suffering or death which is caused or permitted. The test of cruelty is the justifiability of the act or omission' (citations omitted)."

We shudder to think what mischief our fellow citizens will think up next.

And, after all that political-correctness hoopla that preceded the Christmas holiday season, should we now counsel the Easter Bunny to seek protective custody?