by JOHN YATES
American Sporting Dog Alliance
(This is the first in a series of reports on newly introduced Pennsylvania
legislation that will affect every dog and kennel owner.)
HARRISBURG, PA “ Although the pomp and hoopla didn't quite come off as
advertised, three pieces of legislation were introduced Wednesday that will
affect every Pennsylvania dog and kennel owner:
H.B. 2525, sponsored by Rep. James Casorio (D-Westmoreland County) is the
centerpiece of Gov. Ed Rendell's plan to improve conditions in large commercial
breeding kennels. However, it also gives the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement
sweeping powers, cancels out public participation in developing regulations
for all kennels, and sets severe fines, penalties, illegal searches and
confiscation policies that will affect all kennels.
H.B. 2532, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D- Berks County) amends the
ear cropping section of animal cruelty legislation to prohibit anyone except
a veterinarian from performing surgical procedures, but also sets ambiguous
restrictions on tail docking and subjects innocent dog owners to prosecution
for a serious criminal offense. This legislation would curtail rescue program
efforts for many dogs and make out of state residents guilty of a serious
crime for things that are legal in their home states if they pass through or
visit Pennsylvania for travel, dog shows and field trials.
H.B. 449, which was introduced more than a year ago, is being resurrected.
This legislation would make owners of dog seized for unproven animal cruelty
allegations pay for the cost of the care at animal shelters.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance published detailed analyses of all three
pieces of legislation over the past two weeks, and will continue to do so as
the legislative process unfolds. Copies of these prior reports are available
by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday's unveiling culminated more than a year of planning following the
derailment of "top-down" legislation last year. During this time, Bureau of
Dog Law Enforcement Deputy Director Jessie Smith met with many concerned
parties to gather input stemming from more than 16,000 written comments received
last year reportedly an all-time record for public comment on any kind of
legislation in Pennsylvania.
Ceremonies, press conferences, pro-legislation demonstrations, and debate
and testimony at a special meeting of the Dog Law Advisory Board were scheduled
for Wednesday. There was a modest amount of smoke at these events, but
little if any flame.
The pro-legislation rally on the Capitol steps was expected to draw hundreds
of people to protest conditions in "puppy mills", but only between 60 and
80 people attended to voice support. The number of actual participants could
not be determined, but the actual participants were outnumbered by
politicians, Bureau officials, reporters and television news crews. Even three owners of large commercial breeding kennels were observed on the fringes of the group.
There was little discussion at the Dog Law Advisory Board meeting, and most
members did not comment. Only about a dozen people testified at the meeting,
with comments running about three-to-one in opposition to the legislation.
Several opponents of the legislation pointed to failed new regulations as
reflecting either left-wing or extreme animal rights agendas.
The Casorio legislation has received strong support in the House of Representatives, with a reported 90 legislators signing on as co-sponsor; it takes 102 votes to assure passage in the House. He said he expects the legislation to be passed before the end of June.
"We're coming after you," Casorio warned commercial kennel owners in an
interview with an Allentown newspaper. "Today is the beginning of the end of
commercial kennels in Pennsylvania." The legislation also will come all of
Pennsylvania's 2,700 licensed kennels.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance supports many of the changes to improve
conditions in large commercial breeding kennels, but opposes the Casorio
legislation as a whole because it trashes constitutional protections, gives
virtually unlimited power to the Bureau, cuts out legislative approval for license
fee increases and eliminates necessary public review protections for future
The legislation provides truly frightening fines, penalties and confiscation
of dogs for even minor technical violations of regulations, and the planned
regulations are being kept hidden from public scrutiny. In addition, the
Casorio bill provides for unrestricted searches of homes, property and records,
and calls for kennel license revocations if working people are not available
for inspection at the Bureau's convenience.
Caltagirone's Animal Cruelty Act amendments would have a devastating impact
on shelter and rescue programs, because most animals come to these facilities
from unknown sources or without veterinary records. It would be illegal to
possess a dog with cropped ears, scars from a Caesarian section or indications
of surgical debarking in the absence of proof that the work was done by a
veterinarian. It also would be illegal to possess a dog with a docked tail, if
proof could not be provided that the work was done before a puppy was four
days old, or by a veterinarian.
In addition, many Pennsylvanians may have lost veterinary records, or move
here or buy a puppy from other states that do not have these laws. They would
be automatically guilty of a serious criminal offense simply by being in
possession of their dog, and would have no defense in court. Nonresidents of
Pennsylvania would not be able to legally bring a dog with cropped ears or a
docked tail to this state while traveling, to hunt, or to attend a field trial or
dog show without veterinary proof.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance has been working through our members to
show legislators the hidden problems with this legislation. Thus far, our
members report that two legislators have withdrawn their co-sponsorship from the
Caltagirone bill. We hope to be able to convince many more legislators to
withdraw their support from both bills.
We plan to record every vote taken on this legislation and make this
information available to the voters for the November general election. We have been
working hard to develop a database of Pennsylvania dog and kennel owners, and
now can reach more than 50,000 voters in this state.