The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed an overhaul of the state’s animal abuse statutes restricting tethering and strengthen abuse penalties.
The bill by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, makes five major changes to current Pennsylvania animal abuse laws, Humane Society Pennsylvania director Kristen Tullo told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The bill is heading to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.
Under current state law, Tullo said there are no mandatory forfeiture laws for those who are convicted of abuse. There are also currently no statewide tethering regulations. Horses are not awarded the same protections as dogs and cats, and extreme animal abuse is not a felony charge. And vets and humane society officers can currently be sued for reporting cases of animal abuse.
This would all change under House Bill 1238: Convicted abusers would have to forfeit their animals; tethers would need to be triple the length of a dog’s body and dogs could only be tethered for nine hours before a mandatory 30-minute break; horse abuse convictions would result in a misdemeanor charge; heinous animal abuse would result in felony charges; and vets and humane society officers would be granted civil immunity, granting them the freedom to report cases of abuse without fearing legal ramifications.
“We really are thankful for the Pennsylvania General Assembly for their action to see this through to law,” Tullo said.
The law protects not only animals, but also citizens, Stephens wrote in his memo on the bill, citing a 2014 study from the National District Attorneys Association, which shows links between animal abuse and future abuse of humans.
“I am proud to be a long-time supporter of Libre’s Law and eager to sign the bipartisan, comprehensive House Bill 1238 into law,” Wolf said in a statement. “I applaud the sponsors and advocates who have fought for too long to improve Pennsylvania’s protections for animals.”
He continued, “Pennsylvania is only one of three states that does not have a felony statute for severe animal abuse. We are long overdue to join the rest of the country in having higher standards of care for our pets and other animals.”
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