NEWFANE, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State Senate Majority Leader Rob Ortt announced Saturday a new bill to add theft of livestock to second-degree burglary after four incidents of trespassing and stolen animals in Niagara County.
"To include unlawfully entering or evading farmland with intent to commit a crime this would target those who would enter farmland to steal livestock and create severe penalties for the stealing of such property," said Ortt.
Under the proposed bill, offenders could face prison time from 3 and a half years to 15 years.
Niagara County Sheriff Michael Fillicetti told 7 News reporter Jaurdyn Johnson that the incidents have spiked after animal activists gathered in Tonawanda last weekend to allegedly learn how to "open rescue" animals from farms.
"We've handled two thefts. The state police have handled one, so it is happening. People are taking this to heart and they're coming and actually acting on what they learned last Saturday," said Sheriff Fillicetti.
One farmer, Katherine Martin, says she does not feel safe in her own home due to three separate encounters with the so-called activists.
"We don't feel safe in the house, we don't know what the next steps for these people are. We don't know what the next steps are going to be at all," said Martin.
Some believe Tracy Murphy of Asha's Farm Sanctuary is behind the call to action for so-called "Open Rescues" at area farms.
This stems from a dispute over the summer when a neighbor's cows ended up on Murphy's property.