Nassau will have a new council to look out for those with paws, scales or beaks, focusing on issues that range from best practices in animal care to early detection of animal cruelty trends, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Thursday.
The countywide Council on Animal Protection & Safety will start with officials from Nassau's three towns -- Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay -- and two cities -- Glen Cove and Long Beach -- meeting for the first time Friday in Rice's office to talk about ongoing investigations and the council's future.
In time, the council will have more stakeholders, including social service providers, veterinarians and shelter operators, Rice said.
"Part of my job as district attorney is to be a victim's advocate and give a voice to the voiceless," she said in a news release.
"I'm proud to work with our partners all over Nassau County to help ensure that animals and people coexist in a safe manner and that some of the most voiceless among us -- abused and mistreated animals -- have champions and advocates in government."
The idea to coordinate animal welfare efforts stemmed from Rice's animal crimes unit, the first of its kind in a New York district attorney's office when it was formed in 2010.
Once it gets going, the council may hold public meetings and will serve as a forum in identifying local trends, and sharing information and developments in animal regulations and legislation, officials said.
"With this new program, all the municipalities in Nassau will have each other's backs in terms of collaboration and support," said Joan Phillips, Glen Cove's representative on the council and co-founder of the Animal Lovers League, which runs the city's animal shelter.
"I hope this new group will establish benchmarks for others to follow -- the animals deserve nothing less."
In North Hempstead, interim Supervisor John Riordan applauded Rice's efforts in light of what he said were rising reports of animal neglect, abuse and abandonment.
"North Hempstead is proud to partner with other Nassau municipalities to help advocate for and spread awareness about the need to protect and care for animals," he said.
The idea was also praised by other pet owners, advocates and officials, including Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray.