HB1238 is NOT Just a Reorganization of Existing Cruelty Laws
- Published on Saturday, 10 June 2017 12:55
- Written by DRC
A Bill that was fast-tracked through the PA House of Representatives, Senate and signed by Governor Wolf is not what it claims to be. The statements to the media by its sponsors imply that it is only a restructuring of existing Cruelty Laws and some increase in the category of some of those offenses (i.e. from a summary offense to third degree misdemeanor). While those elements are in the House Bill 1238, there are also some troubling provisions in it that are not part of current PA Law. This new Law is a disaster for anyone who values their Liberty and Rights.
These include, but are not limited to:
• Tethering language that will affect hunt tests, field trials, lure coursing and other dog sports, as well as hunting itself. The PA Federation of Dog Clubs maintains its position that tethering is used humanely by a large number of PA Citizens today. The problems with tethering come from the conditions in which the dog is kept. The need for adequate cover
from the elements, food, water and veterinary care are already addressed in the Commonwealth's Cruelty Laws. If the increased categorization and penalties included in the Bill are passed without the tethering language, we believe that will adequately address the problem.
• Immunity from civil suits for Humane Police Officers employed by humane societies and SPCAs. The officers are not employees of the Commonwealth nor any local municipalities. The immunity of state agencies does not apply to humane societies or SPCAs contracted to provide enforcement of cruelty laws. Such a blanket immunity deprives citizens of their rights to seek redress if their Constitutional Rights are violated.
• The increased penalties do cause us some concern as we have heard from more than a few members of our member organizations who have had unpleasant neighbors attempt to use cruelty complaints to settle disagreements. While often these complaints are dismissed after an investigation, the hassle and threat that individuals live under until they get their day in court can be life altering.
The PA Federation of Dog Clubs does not support HB 1238 as currently written. We would like to see hearings on the Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee because they generally address changes to the Dog Law. Also, many of the provisions of this Bill will impact farmers and others in agriculture, and this committee is better suited to address those
impacts. If the Bill stays in the Judiciary Committee, we would call for hearings there instead.