Statement of Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal Slamming Coeyman Officers who Tortured Raccoon

Lawmaker demands statewide audit on compliance with required law enforcement animal welfare training
March 16, 2018

Albany, NY – "The Coeyman officers’ actions were reprehensible and inexcusable. An individual sworn to protect the public should not torture animals. Playing chicken with a raccoon is never a justified use of police force.

The police have defended the action of these officers as “humane.” Let’s be clear about what actually happened here: (This is graphic for those who would like to avoid encountering instances of extreme cruelty to animals.)

1) The officers responded unprepared to a call or calls about a rabid raccoon in a parking lot. They had no cage to trap the animal and had not contacted New York State Department of Environmental wildlife control officers, who are trained and statutorily required to respond to wildlife calls like these. This was a mistake at the outset, as properly trained law enforcement would have responded humanely to protect public safety and the animal from unnecessary pain.

2) The officers drove their car over and around the diseased animal for at least 15 minutes. They made repeated passes over and near the clearly disoriented and terrified animal. The video recording shows the exhausted animal running in circles and jumping around in desperate attempts to avoid being struck by the car. The car just kept coming.

3) The officers hit and ran over the raccoon at least two times. The first time the car appeared to run over the lower half of the animal, causing it extreme pain. After the first hit, the raccoon attempted to drag the flattened lower portion of its body to safety, but could not. The second time the officer ran over the animal, they finally did the poor creature in.

This was not a humane or lawful disposition of a diseased animal, this was the act of depraved indifference to animal welfare. If wildlife were protected by the cruelty laws like my bill would require (A.5050), the action taken by these officers would have constituted illegal animal abuse.

A diagnosis or suspicion of rabies does not justify animal torture. There are myriad humane methods to dispose of sick or dangerous animals to ensure it poses no risk to the public safety, while also not subjecting it to severe and unnecessary pain and suffering.

A body of growing research has shown that there is a clear connection between violence toward animals and violence toward people. Given the depraved indifference to the suffering of the animal displayed by these officers, I question their ability to carry out objective justice and exercise force in a responsible manner.

When law enforcement treats animals in this way, it sends a message to the rest of the community that animal abuse is okay or will be tolerated. This is a dangerous precedent to set. The officers should have contacted the appropriate enforcement agency, after taking action to secure the location and ensure people were not in any danger. Torture should never have entered into the equitation.

In 2009, I passed legislation into law that would help officers better understand cruelty laws through training, and that law was strengthened in 2015. Because it is clear these laws are not being followed, I will demand an audit on compliance with the training requirement, and take appropriate remedial action based on the results of that audit. I will also continue to push for passage of my legislation, A.4796, to ensure the abuse of nuisance wildlife is treated as a felony-level crime, and my bill, A.653-A, to update and strengthen the animal laws and move them out of the Agriculture and Markets Law and into the Penal Law where all the other crimes are."