California just became the first state to allow pet shops to only sell rescue pets. What a great, progressive idea, especially compared to Pennsylvania. I’m pitching an article on that right now to my various editors.
In the meantime, an earlier article on the dog struggle in the Commonwealth.
By Bob Quarteroni
When you run across something like this, it makes you understand that Mark Twain’s opinion of the human race was, if anything, a little too charitable: “Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?”
No, I would say, and this is just one more log on the fire of that proof.
Pennsylvania State Representative Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) is again sponsoring a bill (House Bill 13) to address problems that one would have thought would have disappeared along with the cavemen. But, in our enlightened society, apparently not.
In a memorandum accompanying his bill, Bizzarro a third-term legislator serving the 3rd Legislative District, explains:
“A horse was beaten to death in broad daylight and captured on video. A firecracker was forced under a turtle’s shell and lit. A dog was left to die, suffering for days or weeks from illness, injury and exposure.
“In Pennsylvania, the maximum punishment for all three is the same as a traffic ticket.
“In Pennsylvania, the penalty for stealing 50 cents from someone’s car is tougher than for stabbing a dog.”
We kid you not. Stealing change out of a car is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a jail sentence of up to a year and a $2,000 fine. Stabbing a dog is only a summary offense with a maximum penalty of a $750 fine and 90 days in jail.
And in one of those we-couldn’t-make-this-up-if-we-tried things, even if convicted, the heinous stabber can have his dog back.
Bizzarro is showing exceptional intelligence for one of our legislators (hell, room temperature intelligence for most of them would impress me) – in re-introducing the “Animal Cruelty Bill.”
Yes, oh fellow befuddled readers, the bill didn’t pass the first time around, failing to secure a final vote before the legislative session ended.
Well, in a state where it’s a crime to shoot a big game animal while it’s swimming, where it’s illegal to use dynamite to catch a fish and where it’s also illegal for a minister to perform a marriage when either the bride or groom is drunk, this kind of dynamic legislative action should come as no surprise.
All I know if someone stabbed Opie, Molly, or frequent flier Reilly, he’d have a lot more to worry about that a $750 fine, since I consider my animal friends as least as important as my human friends.
They are not clods of dirt, o pieces of offal or meat by-products that can be damaged with a shrug and a “sorry.”
So I am behind Bizzarro big time.
His bill would require that upon conviction of a misdemeanor level charge of animal cruelty, the abused animals be forfeited to an animal shelter.
It puts reasonable limitations in place for tethering a dog outside as a main means of confinement, including that they cannot be chained for longer than nine hours in a 24-hour period and cannot be tethered for longer than 30 minutes when it is under 30 or over 90 degrees.
It creates an offense of aggravated cruelty to animals which is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or — if it causes serious bodily injury — a felony.
Pennsylvania is virtually alone in the nation in still needing such commonsense laws.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Pennsylvania in its “bottom tier,” 44th out of 50. And Safeway, a security organization, ranks the Commonwealth even lower, 47th.
We’re 47th because Pennsylvania is one of only three states – along with Idaho and Iowa – to not provide meaningful penalties for first-time animal abusers or provide reasonable safeguards for animals.
To quote Mark Twain again, such laws are needed because the human race is not wont to do the right thing without some prodding.
“Of all the animals,” Twain wrote in a wonderful essay entitled “The Lowest Animal,” “Man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals.”
Because of that, It’s time to put teeth in the state’s animal cruelty laws. So please contact your state representative or senator and ask him to support this bill.
Bob Quarteroni, a prolific freelance writer with articles appearing in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday Evening Post and many other publications, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre (cq) Daily Times in State College, Pa. He was director of Public Information at Montclair State and Alfred universities and Senior Writer in Information Services at the University of Florida. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. 33 New Sullivan St. Swoyersville, PA 18704; 570-331-7401; firstname.lastname@example.org