SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — A new law enforcement unit has been established to combat animal and environmental crime prosecutions, which requires investigators to meet with animal victims and contribute to environmental projects across Long Island, as part of a pro bono initiative by the Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney.
The Bio, Environment and Animal Safety team, or BEAST team, will include a team leader and crew of nine prosecutors and one support officer, who will work alongside law enforcement colleagues at the local and county levels. All violations of state laws protecting animals and the environment will be assigned to the “accountability and consistency” team, Tierney’s office said.
The team is led by Assistant District Attorney Jed Painter, a former Nassau County District Attorney, where he served as chief of animal crimes for 11 years. Painter is co-chair of the Animal Crimes Committee of the State District Attorneys’ Association and is a recipient of the prestigious Prosecutor of the Year award from New York’s Prosecutors Training Institute. His work in animal crime has earned him Humane Law Enforcement Awards from the National Sheriffs Association and the Humane Society of the United States.
BEAST team ADAs collect all registration and protection orders related to animals, coordinate regular compliance checks and pursue resulting violations. In environmental criminal cases, they coordinate with the court and outside agencies to create a non-profit program focused on beach clean-ups, trail clean-ups and other environmental restoration projects. ADAs on the team must also be available to law enforcement for on-call search warrants and field guidance.
The BEAST team has met with the state Department of Environmental Protection and animal shelter leadership, and members continue to meet with nonprofit and community animal shelters across the island.
Aside from in-house training, BEAST ADAs have attended special training with the State Animal Welfare Federation and the ASPCA at the Albany State Police Academy.
Tierney has hired an animal crimes detective, who came from the New York City Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit, to augment the existing team of animal and environmental investigators assigned to BEAST “for more centralized and consistent enforcement throughout Long Island”, said Tierney’s office.
DA spokeswoman Tania Lopez said the BEAST team is a multidisciplinary team with multiple stakeholders including Suffolk Police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The prosecutor’s office will “work with anyone making arrests for crimes against animals and the environment in Suffolk,” Lopez said.
Tierney said he was proud of the initiative, noting that cruelty to animals will not be tolerated and anyone accused of environmental crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“We have one of the strongest animal and environmental advocates on our team and he will ensure that no case falls through the cracks,” he added.
Roy Gross, head of the SPCA, called the BEAST team a great initiative and said the agency will work with its members.
“Anything we can do to help and support will certainly be there 100%,” he added.
Libby Post, executive director of the state’s Animal Welfare Federation, said the organization is pleased that Tierney has taken “this unprecedented step forward in the fight against animal cruelty in Suffolk County.”
“We need more prosecutors to take animal crimes more seriously, and the establishment of the Biological, Environmental and Animal Safety team, aptly acronym BEAST, will show other prosecutors across New York what they can do,” she added. “We know that crimes against animals are a gateway that all too often involves domestic violence. Taking animal crimes seriously is vital for our pets and the people who care for them.”
Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations for the North Shore Animal League America, said any mandate that keeps prosecutors in animal crime cases in touch with their victim, as well as animal shelter staff, while the case is pending should be welcomed.
“We know all too well the impact these cases are having on an entire animal welfare organization and the importance of staying connected,” she said.
Brian Shapiro, state director of the United States Humane Society, said the county’s communities would “benefit from increased prosecutions of illegal animal cruelty.”
“Animal crimes are often associated with drugs, guns, domestic violence and other abuse,” he said. “We applaud DA Tierney for establishing the biological, environmental and animal safety team, which will help strengthen animal welfare work in the county.”
Suffolk residents can contact BEAST directly at BEAST@suffolkcountyny.gov. In emergencies, 911 should always be called.