According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings, Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom tier of U.S. states and territories, coming in at an abysmal 41st. Significantly, these rankings were determined after Act 50 of 2013, the so-called Costs of Care Act, passed last summer. That law requires defendants in animal cruelty cases to pay the ongoing costs that humane societies incur in caring for their seized animals during the pendency of the criminal proceeding or forfeit them to the shelter. Even after that momentous leap forward, Pennsylvania remains out of step with the majority of states in protecting animals. The states at the top of the list provide stiffer penalties, especially for repeat offenders; make animal neglect resulting in death of the animal a felony; and give humane police officers broad enforcement powers. The states toward the bottom, including Pennsylvania, treat most animal cruelty as a minor or summary offense and provide vague or low standards of care for animals.
Pennsylvania has a chance to climb up the ladder a few rungs with bills being proposed in both the House and the Senate. The pending bills address many of the weaknesses cited in the survey, including the low grading of offenses against animals and the lack of specificity in our standards of care, as well as provide a means to fund greater enforcement of the laws affecting commercial kennels including breeding operations. The following bills are currently under consideration in the legislature:
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