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Shocking case of animal cruelty, neglect discovered in St. Lawrence County

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Animal Control Officer James E. Pipher said of the scene, "It just made me sick to my stomach," adding he hadn't seen anything like it in a long time.

According to an article in The Journal, when two NYS Troopers went to a house in Oswegatchie yesterday morning they thought they were there just to serve a bench warrant. What they found has been called one of the most sickening cases of animal neglect seen in St. Lawrence County in years.

Peering through a window, the troopers spotted a white Pit Bull mix approaching. "You could see every bone in its body. As soon as we let him outside he started gulping snow." Upon entering the house they found it unheated with any water available to the dog frozen solid.

Eleven animals were found dead on the property, among them eight chickens and two rabbits in coops near the home. Nearby, a small dog lay stiff, obviously frozen to death in the snow.

Edward C. McGaw Jr., County Route 6, Oswegatchie, has been charged with 12 counts of animal neglect. Mr. McGaw was supposed to be caring for the animals and he was renting the property. However, he reported staying elsewhere since last Monday but insisted he had been visiting the home three times a week to care for the animals.

Troopers say there was no evidence anyone had been paying visits because there were no footprints in the snow and no evidence of plowing. "Plus the condition of the dog was so bad, it's hard to believe it only took five days to get that bad."

According to the police, Mr. McGaw turned the surviving dog over voluntarily and he is now being tended to at the Bridge Port Veterinary Clinic. Animal Control Officer Pipher said the dog needed medical intervention immediately or he would have cared for him himself. "It was too weak to even walk in the snow. . .at this point you just can't give it food and water and expect it to bounce back," he added.

Mr. McGaw is ordered to appear in Oswegatchie Town Court. Quite obviously the surviving dog did not get into this condition in a mere five days.

This case is, unfortunately, just one of a number of similar incidents that tragically take place in the North Country on far too regular a basis. Be it ignorance of the force of the elements, laziness, sheer lack of responsibility or intentional cruelty to other living creatures, the trend is a disturbing one in any climate.

Equally troubling is the fact that animal cruelty law upgrades are still languishing within the legal system of the state of New York and have not yet moved forward.

Yes, some progress has been made in charging some higher profile offenders with felonies. The NYS Animal Abuse Registry is still fighting its way through the system, even with a great deal of political support and that of the NYS Animal Advocacy Day group. But enough has not yet been accomplished. Animal cruelty law must be removed from the auspices of Agricultural and Markets law, where perpetrators are much more likely to be charged with misdemeanors, and into the realm of criminal law for clearer interpretation. Charges can then be brought to more accurately reflect the heinousness of the crimes in question.

Let us start calling a crime just that: a crime. Not a "mistake" with a penalty equal to that of a parking ticket.

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