A puppy who narrowly survived a horrific ordeal after being intentionally set on fire this fall has inspired a lawmaker to take steps to improve animal cruelty laws in New York.
In October, a 5-month-old Jack Russell terrier puppy was hung from a tree, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire by two Buffalo teenagers, Diondre Brown, 17, and Adam Zeigler, 19, who have since been charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals for the crime.
Firefighters responded to the call about the incident and the puppy, now known as Phoenix, was taken to the Buffalo Small Animal Hospital where he arrived with third-degree burns covering his entire body. Vets performed skin grafts on his neck and arm pits, removed dead tissue from his ears and worked to save his hind leg, reports Buffalo News.
Phoenix’s story sparked outrage from the public and offers to help pay for his treatment and to adopt him from thousands of people.
“The public wants to see something done, and New York’s law is just antiquated. We haven’t updated it and we fell behind,” Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-144) told WBKW.
Last week, Ryan announced that he will be sponsoring Phoenix’s Law, which he plans to introduce in January. This legislation will double prison terms for animal abusers from two to four years and raise fines from $5,000 to $10,000. The legislation also includes a mandatory psychiatric evaluation and treatment for anyone convicted of cruelty to animals.
“Laws like this are proven to be a deterrent, and that why the national animal groups are focusing on this. They rank New York so low because the current law lacks any deterrence,” said Ryan, who also pointed out the link between animal abuse and how it can escalate to other acts of violence.
The state was ranked 38th on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s list of best and worst states for animal protection laws, with Illinois having the toughest and Kentucky the weakest.
Erie County Legislator Terrence D. McCracken also plans to reintroduce legislation to create an animal abuse registry, which would allow people to check for convictions online and prevent offenders from owning an animal for up to five years.
Meanwhile, Phoenix continues to make what his caregivers are calling an “extraordinary” recovery, while he gets the love and attention he deserves.
“Phoenix still has quite a few weeks of healing to go, but we’re very pleased. His ears are healed – they’re totally functional, and he can hear and move them,” said Judi Bunge, a licensed veterinary technician at the shelter who also cares for Phoenix at her home after hours. “His leg is looking better than we could have hoped, and it’s looking like he definitely will be able to keep it.”
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