July 2017 Issue - page 7

July 2017
Page 7
(Continued on page 9)
By Suzanne Bush
In 1869 Pennsylvania’s
legislature passed a wide-ranging
law aimed at protecting animals
from abuse, neglect and cruelty.
Activities such as cock-fighting,
dog-fighting—even bear and
bull-fighting—were declared
misdemeanors, along with
the antecedents to these abus-
es—“overloading”, beating and
the ill treatment of animals. In the
mid-19th Century, Pennsylvania
was a hotbed of efforts to change
the way animals were viewed and
cared for. A Philadelphian named
Caroline Earle White founded
the nation’s first animal shelter in
1869, and stood up courageously
to carriage drivers who beat their
horses or worked them too hard
in inclement weather.
In the nearly 150 years since
the passage of that first animal
welfare legislation, Pennsylvania
has worked toward achieving
statutory—if not actual—pro-
tection for dogs, cats, horses and
farm animals. The results have
been uneven. Penalties for animal
abuse or neglect have been in-
sufficient to discourage violators,
since most animal cruelty cases
have been considered misde-
meanors. The responsibility for
investigating cases of abuse has
often been carried by Humane
Police Officers paid by non-profit
humane organizations. Humane
Police Officers, veterinarians and
veterinary technicians have not
been protected from frivolous
lawsuits when reporting instances
of animal abuse.
The Time Is Right
In 2015 a starving horse
was removed from a junkyard
in Bedford, PA. Despite heroic
efforts to save the horse, named
Cordelia, she died. Senator John
Eichelberger (R., Blair, Franklin,
Fulton, Cumberland, Huntingdon
Counties) sponsored Cordelia’s
Law, which would add protection
for horses to the state’s animal
welfare laws.
On July 4, 2016 an ema-
ciated, nearly-dead puppy was
rescued from a Lancaster County
farm. The seven-week-old puppy
had open sores from mange.
He was dehydrated and hardly
breathing and veterinarians held
out little hope that he would sur-
vive. His rescuer, Janine Guido,
named him Libre, and begged
veterinarians to do whatever they
needed to do to save him.
“Libre’s story of miraculous
recovery from near death last
year sparked a surge of public
outcry to the Pennsylvania Gen-
eral Assembly for improvement
of animal cruelty and neglect
laws,” Kristen Tullo says. “And
now history is in the making
with the passing of the most
comprehensive animal protection
package in state history!” Tullo
is Pennsylvania state director for
Humane Society of the United
States (HSUS).
Senator Richard Alloway
II (R., York, Franklin, Adams,
Cumberland Counties), touched
by Libre’s plight and the gaps in
the state’s animal welfare laws,
drafted Libre’s Law, to increase
penalties for animal cruelty.
Pennsylvania Legislature Passes Landmark Animal Welfare Law
Despite enthusiastic support
for both these bills, neither one
ultimately passed. But that did
not mean the desire to change
Pennsylvania’s animal welfare
laws evaporated.
“I’ve done several bills ad-
dressing animal abuse and felt like
we needed to do a more compre-
hensive overhaul of our animal
protection statute,” explains
Representative Todd Stephens (R.,
Montgomery County). “It began
last July and then more examples
kept cropping up in Pennsylvania
calling out for these reforms.”
Stephens managed to accomplish
what seemed impossible. HB
1238, which is an overhaul of the
state’s animal abuse statutes, was
passed on June 20 and headed for
the Governor’s desk.
Tullo says there was biparti-
san support in both chambers for
the bill. “It passed the full House
on April 26. This is a big step
toward improving animal abuse
and neglect laws in our state!”
Stephens emphasizes that
he alone is not responsible for
the success of this legislation. “I
think it’s important to know this
is a total team effort,” he says.
He credits Alloway and Eichel-
berger for the work they had
done previously, as well as the
many co-sponsors of this bi-par-
tisan effort. Both Cordelia’s Law
and Libre’s Law are incorporated
into the legislation.
Activists held a Humane Lobby Day in support of HB 1238 at the state Capitol. Their efforts were re-
warded with the bill’s passage on June 20. The bill updates statutes and increases penalties for animal
cruelty. Pennsylvania was one of only three states that did not allow felony charges for extreme animal
abuse, according to a statement by Governor Tom Wolf.
Photo credit Kristen Tullo
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