December 2, 2021

County committee re-introduces idea of regulating loose livestock

As Cortland County Legislator Ron VanDee continued talking Thursday about why the Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee shouldn’t talk about a proposed law regulating loose livestock, Chairman Kevin Fitch asked him to stop talking.

The debate over whether to allow a law that required owners of livestock to keep their animals secure or face penalties has been heated since the proposal arrived on the committee’s agenda in August and was then the subject of a public hearing.

It was pulled from consideration by the full Legislature at its August meeting, but Fitch (R-Homer, Preble, Scott) brought it back to the committee for discussion and potential re-introduction.

“The farmers spoke loud and clear,” VanDee (D-Cortland) said Thursday during the committee meeting. “They want their own towns to take care of it. As far as I’m concerned, just trash this and let them do it.”

Several farmers spoke Aug. 27, saying the proposal was onerous on farmers who were being responsible, that it didn’t go after repeat offenders, which was the law’s original intent, and that it could have the potential to punish farmers whose animals accidentally got out for one reason or another.

VanDee said that he would not support any similar laws at the county level.

“We’ll, I’m glad you’re only one of 17 legislators,” Fitch said.

Fitch said he put the law back on the agenda as a discussion item so more research could be considered and the agriculture community involved in drafting a new proposal.

“This is the problem that we have in the county, when a law comes into play into a committee the research should be done,” he said. “There should be something backing what the law was drafted for.”

He said the Sheriff’s Office and Cortland Community Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provided him with data showing they responded to 400 loose livestock complaint calls over two years.

VanDee and Legislator Mitchel Eccleston (R-Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor, Willet) questioned the number. Eccleston said towns should be left to make their own laws regarding loose livestock.

“I really don’t see any reason the county would hold an umbrella over the towns for something the towns can do themselves,” he said.

VanDee made a motion to remove the law from discussion by the committee and in any future committees. Legislator Ann Homer (D-Cortland) said that motion was out of order because they can’t make a motion that would essentially last forever. However, the motion was still voted on and failed, 2-3. Homer, Fitch and Susan Wilson (D-Cortland) voted no. Legislators Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) and Christopher Newell (R-Cortlandville) were absent.

County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Amanda Barber said that having all the necessary background information on why the law was being brought forward and sharing that information with the agriculture community was important to helping resolve the issue. She also said that the law must be specific in what it is trying to achieve.

“I think we need to look at the law and make sure the law is addressing whatever the concern or problem is,” she said.

She also noted few similar laws are on the books in the state.