Bill Martin, an officer with the Ontario County Humane Society, recently presented a program on the Happy Tails animal shelter to the Victor-Farmington Rotary Club.
Martin, a retired deputy working part-time at the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, serves as the animal cruelty officer for OCHS, which operates the shelter at 2976 County Road 48 in Canandaigua.
The mission of OCHS is to “reach out to our community to make our surroundings a better place for people and animals to live together.” It focuses on dog and cat safety, care and education to improve the community.
Martin discussed his duties as an investigator with OCHS, and the applicable laws and regulations covering animal control issues at the state and local level. He said animal control issues were handled by the Sheriff’s Office in the past, but the county opted to contract with OCHS to provide coverage.
OCHS officers are peace officers and do have arrest authority over certain offenses designated in the Agriculture and Markets Law. Martin reviewed cases he handled in his eight years of service that resulted in over 300 arrests for various violations. His investigations involve cooperative efforts with local police, the Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police.
State law requires each township and locality ensure dogs in their jurisdiction are licensed. Unlicensed or abandoned dogs are housed at the Happy Tails facility in Canandaigua. Martin said any animal that comes into its custody becomes, after a five-day waiting period, acquired by Happy Tails and available for adoption.
Martin said all dogs, other than those in a condition where adoption is not feasible, are kept until a new owner adopts them. There is no time limit and animals have been kept as long as three years.
Happy Tails offers the Companions for Seniors program to make it easier for seniors ages 55 and older to acquire a companion pet that is 3 years or older.
In answering a question about persons convicted of animal cruelty being able to own or adopt an animal, Martin said there are not specific provisions in criminal statutes, but the issue may be handled at the time of the defendant’s sentencing.
He said the warmer months usually lead to a spike in calls concerning animals left unattended in vehicles. The main concern of the responding officer is determining if the animal is left in a situation of apparent distress. If so, legal action will be taken.