The Ted Frank Rule (And Your Little Dog, Too)
February 23, 2017 (Fault Lines) — A year ago, Denise Krohn suffered a tragedy:
Denise Krohn left her home to go shopping around 6:30 Wednesday. She arrived back shortly before 9 p.m. and saw her beloved dog, Kirby, bleeding on the floor. Krohn assumed there had been an accident, but then saw her drawers and kitchen cabinets hanging open.
The kitchen had been ransacked.
Krohn tried to use her phone but it was dead. She began to panic. Kirby, a Goldendoodle, was bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest. Her other dog, Quigley, was dead in the living room.
Krohn said Kirby was still alive when she walked in, which she believed meant the burglars had heard the dying dog’s whimpers and stepped past it to take the loot. She wonders what had happened if she had been home, whether she would be dead then.
Krohn reacted as one might expect:
“I’m sad, I’m devastated,” Krohn said, “How do you come back from it? I will. And I’m mad, I’m not going to take it.”
She channeled her sadness into an unusual channel: trying to get the New York legislature to pass a measure that would add an animal cruelty charge to defendants who harm a “companion animal” during the commission of felony. This new measure, now called “Kirby and Quigley’s Law,” would be an expansion of Buster’s Law, which was passed in response to the death of a cat whom a seriously messed up juvenile had set on fire.
For those New Yorkers who don’t remember, the “Ted Frank rule” says that “a law named after the victim of a crime is probably a bad idea.” That goes double for animal victims. That didn’t stop New York State Senator Jim Tedisco from making some political hay where he could:
Anyone who would be so dastardly as to assassinate two beautiful, loving dogs in cold blood is a threat to others and should face justice under Buster’s Law and go to jail for a long time for all of their felony crimes.
Indeed they should. And they already could be charged under the original version of the law. Kirby and Quigley’s Law made it past the Senate by a vote of 59-2, but it’s been held up in the Assembly as it has been for the previous five sessions. At least a few Assemblymen seem to have their heads screwed on a little straighter:
“This bill is unnecessary,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It’s already a crime to assault or kill an animal; it’s already a felony if you do it with malicious intent.”
Lentol said if the point of the law is to deter cruel acts, it makes no sense to expand it to include unintentional harm.
Exactly right. While whoever killed Kirby and Quigley don’t deserve any sympathy, they’re already going to get theirs if they ever get caught and convicted. So, the law basically serves to criminalize something that is already a crime. If that were all, that would be annoying but not earthshattering. The bigger problem is the unforeseen consequences of adding yet another felony that can be charged on top of more serious (or less serious charges).
The text of the bill reads as follows:
A person is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when
In the course of commission of a felony, or of immediate flight therefrom, he or she causes physical injury … or death to a companion animal.
In a practical sense, this won’t make the pets, or the pet owners of New York State, any safer. What it will do is provide yet another bludgeon for prosecutors to force a guilty plea. Injure a dog while driving drunk (and you have a previous conviction?) Felony. Knock over a goldfish bowl while ransacking a house? Felony. Trip and fall on a cat while running away from the police? Well, you get the idea.
Tedisco doesn’t even have the excuse that he didn’t think this through. He points out in his sponsor’s memo (after relating the deaths of the two dogs) that:
Although the current definition of aggravated cruelty to animals will most likely apply to the actions of these depraved individuals, we cannot ignore the potential harm to other innocent animals misused or even killed in the commission of felonies.
We can, actually. And we should.
 “Companion animal” is defined as “any dog or cat, and shall also mean any other domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner or person who cares for such other domesticated animal.”
 The guy was later convicted of sexually assaulting a 12 year-old disabled girl and sent to Attica.