Oct. 21, 2012
In the latest Shelter Scoop an article concerning the Cost of Care Bill (which was originally SB1527, urged readers to contact legislators asking for support of this bill, which would provide financial help to non-profit shelters which bear the burden of medical care, food, and shelter for animals seized in cruelty cases.
As it turned out, a similar bill was introduced into the House before the Senate bill was able to pass through committee and go to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Amazingly, it sailed through the House and was passed by a vote of 174-5.
Sent to the Senate, it then had to pass through two committees before being put before the Senate for a vote. Despite the efforts of Sen. Alloway, the bill was NOT put on the agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee to move it toward a vote in the Senate. Both the AKC and the Penna. Federation of Dog Clubs launched major opposition to the legislation.
Despite their attempts to derail the legislation, we hope that the Cost of Care Bill will be passed in the next session. It is very frustrating that it must again move through the House and Senate.
The Senate reconvenes on Nov. 14; the House reconvenes on Nov. 13.
Our local legislators will support this bill. If you want to help to bring awareness to voters, the best way to do it would be letters to the editors of papers throughout the state. The contacts for newspapers are available on the internet; letters can be sent via their websites. The Cost of Care Bill is vital to our continued ability to do cruelty investigations, and, in cases where animals are found in life-threatening situations, to remove them to safe shelter.
Thursday, September 27, 2012, 12:32 PM
Pa. review board blasts state on kennel inspections
By AMY WORDEN / INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
HARRISBURG - The Department of Agriculture imposed a virtual moratorium on kennel enforcement during the past 15 months by failing to properly inspect most commercial kennels, allowing oversized or poor-performing operations to skirt stringent regulations and issuing no citations for breaking the law, according to a blistering new report by members of the state's Dog Law Advisory Board.
The nearly 100-page report, produced by a subcommittee of the board charged with advising the governor on dog issues, came to what it called "the disturbing conclusion" that the Dog Law Enforcement office has failed to enforce critical components of the dog law and the companion canine health regulations leaving close to 500,000 dogs in 2,000 kennels at risk.
"The data show that, by design, everything was done to ignore enforcing the law," said Thomas Hickey, of West Chester, a board member and one of the report's authors.
He said the inspection reports indicate:
- breeders failed to vaccinate dogs for rabies as required and no action was taken;
-rather than revoke licenses of breeders convicted of cruelty it settled their cases and gave them kennel licenses:
-and inspections were conducted shortly before kennel improvement waivers expired, giving breeders even more time to upgrade.
"Everywhere we turned nothing was happening," said Hickey, who helped draft the 2008 dog law establishing higher standards in breeding kennels.
Data compiled on the status of more than 300 commercial kennels - those selling more than 60 dogs a year or selling any dogs to pet stores - that existed before the law went into effect in 2009 indicates there was no follow up on the 184 kennels that said they closed since then. Nor was there follow up to ensure breeders who said they downsized to come under the threshold requiring kennels to make structural improvements actually only sold fewer than 60 dogs a year, the report found.
"Dogs are suffering because of lack of enforcement of this law - no way that can be denied," said board member Marsha Perelman, Wynnewood, one of the authors of the report.
The report, which will be presented at the meeting of the Dog Law Advisory Board at 1 p.m. today, comes amid growing concerns about the effectiveness of the Dog Law Enforcement Office, which is responsible for ensuring the humane care of dogs in licensed kennels.
The agency's history of weak enforcement and oversight was the focus of a landmark two-year legislative battle in the Capitol that ended with the passage of the new dog law in 2008.
The law was aimed at addressing conditions in puppy mills and mandated large breeders increase cage sizes and provide outdoor exercise and regular veterinary care.
Evidence of slipping enforcement efforts - including the near absence of citations filed against kennels for any violations of the dog law - under the Corbett administration resulted in the formation of a subcommittee following the April meeting of the Dog Law Advisory Board.
During that meeting state officials admitted that only a fraction of commercial kennels were complying with canine health regulations that were to go into effect in July 2011 establishing standards for humidity, ventilation, lighting and ammonia levels in large operations.
In June Lynn Diehl, who was appointed a year earlier as the director Dog Law Enforcement Office after her two Rendell-era predecessors were forced out, was removed from her post.
Michael Pechart, a top aide to Agriculture Secretary George Greig, took over the duties as director.
The report makes a series of recommendations. Chief among them, Hickey said, is to immediately inspect the 184 commercial kennels that said they had closed and to inspect the additional 69 kennels that said they no longer sell enough dogs to qualify as commercial kennels to ensure they are operating legally.
The report also urges the state to employ attorneys with prosecutorial experience to oversee dog law case and to reinstate a fulltime veterinarian to handle kennel issues, including ordering dogs with severe health problems be seen by a veterinarian and referring possible cruelty cases to humane law enforcement agencies. The full-time veterinarian appointed in 2009 was reduced to twice-a-week per diem status this month.
Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.
With stunning speed - and no opposition - the state House Agriculture committee approved two animal welfare bills on Monday.
House Bill 2630, sponsored by the committee's chairman Rep. John Maher (R., Allegheny), would ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers as a method euthanasia in animal shelters. A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester), passed the Senate in the spring.
Only a handful of animal control facilities in Pennsylvania still use the practice which is banned in several states and municipalities and is widely viewed as a cruel way to destroy unwanted animals. The act will allow shelters across the Commonwealth to obtain drugs necessary to euthanize animals in a humane manner by injection.
Rep. Joe Petrarca (D., Westmoreland), the committee's ranking Democrat, called the use of carbon monoxide gas "dangerous and barbaric."
"If an animal is to be euthanized, the very least we can do is provide animals with a more gentle means," he said.
A second bill, House Bill 2409, would hold animal owners responsible for the costs of care of animals that are seized by authorities. That bill, sponsored by Rep.. Brian Ellis (R., Butler) establishes that owners have a financial obligation for the care for their pets and therefore will be held responsible for costs of care if their animals are seized for cruelty or neglect.
By shifting the burden for the cost of care to the alleged abuser, the bill will reduce the financial burdens on shelters and encourage the vigorous investigation of animal cruelty, supporters say.
“This legislation will remove the enormous burden of the costs of care of seized animals currently borne by shelters across the Commonwealth” said Ellis in a statement. “I hope that this legislation will assist local shelters in expanding and preserving their important work in protecting animals from cruelty.”
Both bills are expected to go to the House floor for a final vote as early as next week. It is unclear what the Senate will do in the remaining two weeks of the legislative session. If the bills do not get final approval before the General Assembly goes on break for the election, in mid-Oct. the process will have to start all over again with the new session next year.