One of Pennsylvania’s most notorious titles is ‘puppy mill capital of the East’, with 2,600 businesses with kennel licenses, ranging from small boarding operations to commercial breeding kennels housing hundreds of dogs. These kennels, most in Lancaster County, produce thousands of puppies each year to supply pet shops throughout the Northeast. Breeding dogs often spend their lives in cramped cages with little socialization.

Governor Rendall has been proactive in taking steps to improve dog welfare in his state including stricter regulations for kennels. Now I admit that I have mixed feeling on the government stepping in and telling dog owners what to do and what not to do when it comes to their dogs but than again I am one of those people who would never do anything to harm one of my dogs, they are exceeding well cared for, spoiled and pampered. Point in fact, I am against the California Mandatory Spay/Neuter Bill – AB1634, you can read about it and why I feel this way here.

Gov. Rendell is facing great opposition for many of the changes he has made and has proposed from the AKC to many breed organizations, sportsman clubs and kennels. This, I believe due to the fact that his proposed overhauls are going to cost kennel operators alot of money. Yes, it may hurt the small kennels and breeders in its current form (which the Dog Law Advisory Board is currently revising) but his main targets are the ‘puppy mills’ which in general operate under the most deplorable conditions imaginable!


Such sweeping reforms as are being proposed in PA are going to always have both positive and negative results but in general, I feel that the proposed reforms are going to go a long way in improving conditions for the dogs and to me, as well as to many animal welfare advocates, that is a priority!

In 2006 “Members of the Pennsylvania Dog Law Advisory Board have received pink slips from Gov. Rendell, in what he called the first step toward addressing inhumane conditions at the growing number of commercial dog breeding operations.

The action comes as animal-welfare advocates increase pressure on officials to end crowded and unsanitary conditions in so-called puppy mills and as the Department of Agriculture makes its first attempt in a decade to toughen the state’s 24-year-old dog law.” (ASPCA)

He also appointed two key officials in specially-created positions and proposed regulatory and legislative changes to the existing Dog Law. Many state licensed kennels have been operating in open violation of the existing Dog Law with breeding dogs housed in these licensed facilities often suffering from inadequate shelter, filthy and unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, insufficient food and water, and lack of veterinary care. These deplorable conditions have also been exposed by numerous media sources, resulting in increased calls for change from concerned citizens and animal welfare organizations.

From a 2006 Press Release – Governor Edward G. Rendell proposed sweeping changes to the state’s dog law and related state regulations that are designed to improve the conditions under which dogs are bred and sold in Pennsylvania.

“We are taking strong steps to protect consumers, reputable breeders and kennels, and the defenseless animals whose health and welfare is at the heart of this important issue,” Governor Rendell said.

Gov. Rendell’s latest initiative brings dog kennel reports online so that consumers now can check out whether a kennel, animal shelter, pet shop or boarding facility passes muster in Pennsylvania, the first state to post its inspection reports on the Internet. In addition, he has added staff to the Bureau of Dog Law, stepped up enforcement, and proposed sweeping changes to the regulations that govern kennel operations.

“It’s extremely valuable,” said Bob Baker, a St. Louis-based investigator for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Hopefully, this encourages transparency in other states so watchdog groups like ASCPA can monitor inspections.”

Critics say that the existing laws focus only on the conditions of kennels rather then the health of the animals and wardens cannot cite operators for health violations or cruelties and animal advocates warn that as a result, these reports do not provide any indication of the health of the animals.

This may not be perfect but it is another step in the right direction for the welfare of animals in PA. There are many more reforms coming by the list of bills and legislation pending right now and the future is looking brighter then it ever has for dogs in Pennsylvania.

PA Legislation

From HSUS

Cruelty to Animals Covered by Protection Orders

Bill Number: PA S.B. 32
Bill Status: Pending
HSUS Position: Support
Bill Sponsor(s):
Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D, 19)
Legislature Status: In Session

Last Action: 2/5/07: Introduced and referred to Judiciary Committee.

Creates a third degree felony for cruelty to an animal that is in the care, control, or supervision of a person who benefits from a protection order, and where the person committing the harm is subject to the protection order.

Kennel Licensing

Bill Number: PA H.B. 365
Bill Status: Pending
HSUS Position: Support
Bill Sponsor(s):
Rep. James Casorio (D, 56)
Legislature Status: In Session

Last Action: 2/13/07: Referred to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Requires the secretary to revoke kennel licenses if kennel owner has made a material misstatement, has been convicted of animal cruelty, or has been convicted of violating humane standards; gives secretary discretion to revoke license if owner violates regulations other than regulations for the humane treatment of animals; requires seizure of dogs if license is revoked or if there is reason to believe the dogs’ health, safety, or welfare is in danger.


Animal Cruelty, Forfeiture and Bonding

Bill Number: PA H.B. 499
Bill Status: Pending
HSUS Position: Support
Bill Sponsor(s):
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R, 18)
Legislature Status: In Session

Last Action: 2/26/07: Referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Increases the penalties for misdemeanor animal cruelty from $500 to $1,000; increases the fine for felony cruelty from $1,000 to $2,000; requires an owner who has been charged with animal cruelty to pay for the costs of caring for the animal pending the disposition of the charge; allows an owner to forfeit the animal to avoid paying the costs.

 

Increase Penalties for Animal Cruelty

Bill Number: PA H.B. 442
Bill Status: Pending
HSUS Position: Support
Bill Sponsor(s):
Rep. Chris Sainato (D, 9)
Legislature Status: In Session

Last Action: 2/26/07: Referred to the Judiciary Committee.
2/14/07: Introduced.

Increases the penalties for felony cruelty from $1,000 to $2,500 and from 2 years to 5 years.

 

Dog Law Revision

Bill Number: PA H.B. 445
Bill Status: Pending
HSUS Position: Support
Bill Sponsor(s):
Rep. James Casorio (D, 56)
Legislature Status: In Session

Last Action: 2/26/07: Referred to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Establishes licensing requirements and classification system for kennels; defines “rescue kennel”; sets civil penalties for violations of the licensing requirements; requires license to be displayed; requires kennels to post a surety bond prior to obtaining a license; establishes procedure for suspension or revocation of a license; requires the development of strategies to ensure that all kennels operating are licensed; sets restrictions on tethering; establishes requirements for dangerous dogs.

Overall, this is a good bill that makes important revisions to Pennsylvania’s Dog Law. However, to avoid burdening organizations that care for unwanted pets in Pennsylvania, non-profit shelters and rescue groups should be exempted from some of the requirements.

 

Restrictions on Tethering

Bill Number: PA H.B. 1065
Bill Status: Pending
HSUS Position: Support
Bill Sponsor(s):
Rep. Mario Scavello (R, 176)
Legislature Status: In Session

Last Action: 4/18/07: Referred to the Judiciary Committee.
4/13/07: Introduced.

Prohibits tethering of dogs between 10pm and 6am; prohibits tethering a dog in such way that the dog could get entangled; prohibits tethering with a choke, chain, pinch or prong-type collar; requires that the chain used to tether a dog be at least six feet long or five times the length of the dog, whichever is longer; requires that a tethered dog have access to food, shelter, and water.

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