People v. Basile
Basile appealed from a jury verdict convicting him of failing to provide proper sustenance to an animal. An ASPCA agent responded to a call to investigate a complaint regarding possible abuse of a dog. The agent observed an underfed, dirty dog tied to a fence with no food, water or shelter. Basile alleged he was financially unable to care for the dog. A veterinarian concluded the dog was 41 percent underweight, and there was no underlying medical condition for the dog's emaciation except that he was starved. On appeal, Basile argued prosecutors had the burden to establish he possessed the mens rea to starve the dog, but failed to do so, claiming he merely could not afford the animal's care. Agriculture and Markets Law §353 revealed that for a person to be guilty of its violation, there was no requirement a person have a culpable mental state. Thus, contrary to Basile's contention that prosecutors had to establish he acted unjustifiably, the panel did not read the word "unjustifiably" in §353 to relate to the words "deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, neglects or refuses to furnish such sustenance or drink." Hence, it affirmed the conviction.