ALBANY, N.Y. – New York has become the first state in the nation to ban the electrocution of animals in a particularly gruesome way to harvest their fur.
The law bans the practice of anal and genital electrocution of fur-bearing animals, including mink, foxes, chinchillas and rabbits. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail.
National animal rights advocates on Wednesday said they hope it will force similar measures in other states.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to use the law to push other states to ban similar practices on farms, which are often hidden in rural areas where animals are born and bred unsheltered in cages.
"Anal electrocution is common practice in fur farms across the world," said Melissa Karpel of the Norfolk, Va.-based PETA. "A lot of these methods aren't effective and these animals will wake up while they are being skinned."
The practice is widespread because it's cheap, said Karpel, the senior campaign coordinator for PETA.
There is no similar law or pending bill in other states, said Janna Goodwin of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Most established fur farms adhere to American Veterinary Medical Association standards, said Teresa Platt, executive director of the Fur Commission USA, a trade association with members on 330 farms in 28 states.
Those can allow for use of electricity to kill some animals, although mink are usually killed by gas, she said.
Platt said that the practice is not as common as the animal rights advocates contend. She said there are rogue fur suppliers, but she doubts there are many because they risk their farms and imprisonment on cruelty charges if caught.
Most fur farms raise the animals for about seven months in pens before they are euthanized, she said.
A mink pelt is expected to sell for about $70 this year, although a top pelt recently sold for $2,200 and was likely intended for royalty, she said.
Platt said New York would have better spent money on research about electricity and euthanasia rather than listening to the "propaganda campaign" of animal rights groups.
New York's ban was signed in March, one of the final acts of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer before he resigned after he was implicated in a prostitution ring. Nothing was made of the passage then in the tumultuous transition to a new governor.
The law took effect immediately upon passage, and no one has yet been charged with violating it.
Despite the heated and organized debate over killing animals for fur coats, the New York measure drew strong support from Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives in the legislature.
Lawmakers agreed up front to put aside the question of whether killing animals for fur is moral, according to the bill's documentation.
Republican Sen. Frank Padavan said he knows the killings were done in New York by disreputable fur peddlers.
"I draw a very strong correlation between how we treat domestic animals and all animals and how we treat each other," Padavan said.