By John Di Leonardo
Last week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed two major pieces of animal welfare legislation: the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill and the Cruelty-Free Cosmetic Act. The former will prohibit the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in New York state starting in 2024 while allowing stores to showcase homeless animals by partnering with rescues. The latter will prohibit the sale of cosmetics tested on animals starting next month. However, while many animal advocates celebrated these two monumental victories, those in Suffolk County, Long Island mourned the death of a bill that would have restricted hunting next to Suffolk County’s only wildlife hospital. It may seem that a Governor who has been pro-animal and pro-gun control would jump at the chance to sign legislation protecting wildlife rehabilitators from guns on Long Island, however, 2022 was not the year for our friends at Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center.
The first week of January, a hunter shot a deer within 6 feet of Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, killing the deer – who had been rehabilitated and released from the hospital – and blowing a hole through a wildlife enclosure, endangering the lives of recovering animals and of a staff member working nearby. Ginnie Frati, who runs the Center tried to render aid to the wounded animal, but the doe sadly died in her arms. Frati had sounded the alarm several times since the 200-acre parcel known as Henry Hollow’s was opened for hunting in 2004 – four years after she opened the Hospital at Munn’s Pond County Park. Over the years, she found hunters trespassing on hospital grounds, bullet holes in “no hunting” signs, and stray arrows around caging areas.
Following this latest incident, A. 9895/S. 9345 offered a ray of hope. However, though it passed both the Senate and Assembly nearly unanimously, it was opposed vigorously by the hunting lobby and the Department of Environmental Conservation, which sells hunting licenses, contributing to an uphill battle getting it signed. In 2023, we expect this bill to be reintroduced and hope that once her office better understands the danger our Long Island rehabilitators are facing, the Governor will sign it when it passes nearly unanimously once again.
Wildlife rehabilitators should not have to work in fear of being shot and killed at the Hamptons’ only wildlife hospital, where many patients are being treated for gunshot wounds to begin with. And environmentalists should be entitled to walk the Center’s Nature Trail without coming upon a deer full of buckshot or an orphaned fawn. Whether one believes animals are owed their own inherent rights or are here for our stewardship, it should be clear to all that hunting next to a wildlife hospital is wildly inappropriate.
For this week’s Anuvrat, please consider donating to our friends at Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center at wildliferescuecenter.org or Wildlife SOS in India. If you’re in New York, please also politely call Governor Hochul’s office and let her know you’re disappointed that she vetoed A. 9895/S. 9345. Wildlife rehabilitators deserve our reverence and appreciation; and this week, New York state let them down.
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].