Passing Legislation to Protect Animals

PetImage via Pixabay
Op-Ed by State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh

As another National Pet Adoption Week comes to a close, I feel it’s important to remind my colleagues in both the House and Senate, of our duty to serve all our constituents, human or not.

On June 15, I stood outside the Capitol to support legislation [H.B. 526] that would end the financial deficit currently limiting the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement’s ability to operate effectively.

Legislation that would “give a voice to the voiceless” and provide the tools and resources needed to ensure animals no longer suffer or go through unimaginable anguish and pain. Legislation that would bring the program to self-solvency with operating costs covered by licenses, unlike last year when taxpayers were responsible for an additional $1.2 million to keep the department operating (estimated to rise to $1.5 million this year).

And what became of that legislation? Rather than come before the chamber for a vote, sadly it sits in committee, where it has remained since February. The resulting consequences are continued suffering for animals and an enforcement system that remains operating as best as it can. I feel we can, and should be, doing better.

As someone who has been fostering for local animal rescues, I have seen the horrors that result from inhumane conditions propagated by the puppy mill industry here in Pennsylvania. As such, partnering with House colleague Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery) to introduce H.B. 1299, legislation that would drive the Pennsylvania pet market toward more humane sources like shelters, rescues and responsible breeders was something that required no hesitation. Our bipartisan bill, also known as “Victoria’s Law,” would stop the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores.

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This legislation, as introduced, not only would hold irresponsible breeders accountable, but also would provide protections for consumers who, sadly, find themselves facing unknown financial burdens due to the overbreeding and poor veterinary care impacting animals born from this severely tragic and brutal industry.

And what’s become of this legislation, legislation that has bipartisan support? Legislation that would finally make headway against the inhumane conditions propagated by the puppy mill industry… It remains stuck, much like H.B. 526, in the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, where it was assigned in April.

As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, I introduced legislation at the start of this year, H.B. 459, that would require all convicted animal abusers to be banned from owning, possessing, controlling or working with animals for at least two years. Legislation that would mandate that abusers participate in violence-prevention counseling and, in the case of failure to attend counseling or trying to have an animal, the ban would be increased, and counseling required again. And what of that legislation you wonder? It too, has been stuck in committee.

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Now, as the calendar year comes nearer to a close, and our time gathered in the Capitol is really limited, I can’t help but be angered by the lack of concern, or unwillingness of my colleagues to move these pieces of legislation forward, especially given the difference they would make across the commonwealth.

This week, across the nation, animals like my fur babies Mia and Violet are waiting for their chance to be part of a loving home via the best option, adoption.

Both Mia and Violet came from rescues, and I proudly work with the Adopt a Boxer organization to meet with individuals and families for potential adoptions and to provide transport services for rescue dogs in need of fostering. They are very much a part of my family, and it sickens me to know we have the opportunity in Harrisburg to do something on behalf of animals, and yet we don’t. There is no reason to do nothing, when it’s so clear we can, and should, do something.

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I’m hopeful, that in the days, even weeks to come, my colleagues will recognize the importance in passing these legislative items and advance them for a vote. I would encourage you to contact your elected officials and let them know these are pieces of legislation that should be passed before we break for the holidays.

State Rep. Jeanne McNeill was first elected to represent the 133rd State House District in Lehigh County in 2017. She serves as the vice chairwoman of the Northeast Delegation.

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