By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Last week the State Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1238, legislation which I voted for in April when it was before the House, will strengthen existing animal cruelty laws and make it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal.
The measure came to be known as “Libre’s Law,” named after a Boston terrier puppy who was rescued from a Lancaster County farm last summer after suffering from severe neglect. Libre was a frequent visitor to the Capitol in recent months, lobbying on behalf of the bill.
The bill also would place limitations on the tethering of dogs outdoors, allow local district attorneys to decide the appointment of humane society police officers, and provide civil immunity to veterinarians or vet techs who report animal neglect, along with humane society police officers who investigate possible abuse cases.
The bill also adds a new classification of aggravated animal cruelty for offenders who cause the death or serious bodily injury of an animal. Violators could be found guilty of a third-degree felony.
The improvements in this bill are the most significant changes to Pennsylvania’s animal abuse laws in more than three decades. The effort to strengthen laws against animal cruelty was driven not only by members on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly, but also by an army of tireless advocates who wrote, called and emailed their Senators and Representatives in pursuit of a safer environment for domesticated animals.
The tethering portion of the legislation is aimed at preventing dog owners from tethering their pets without access to food, water and shelter, or during periods of intense heat, cold, or other forms of inclement and dangerous weather.
In addition, the bill includes a number of other provisions to protect animals, including measures to provide for the forfeiture of animals in cases of abuse, adds protections for horses and creates a new classification for crimes against guide dogs and police animals.
Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement before the vote that he was "eager" to sign the bill into law.