HOORAY: Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Laws Just Got a Whole Lot Tougher

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Libre's Law signed into law in Pennsylvania

Almost a year after an emaciated, mange-ridden Boston Terrier puppy was rescued after he was abandoned on a Pennsylvania breeding farm, animal cruelty laws in the state are getting a whole lot tougher.

Today Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law HB 1238, which is considered to be the most significant anti-animal cruelty legislation for Pennsylvania in the last 30 years. It includes Libre’s Law, which was inspired by the abandoned puppy, who was later named Libre because he was rescued on the Fourth of July. (Libre put his pawprint on the legislation during this afternoon’s signing ceremony!)

Until now, Pennsylvania had some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the country. Benjamin S. Stoltzfus, the owner of the breeding farm, initially faced no animal cruelty charges even though he’d intentionally left Libre to die a horrible death all alone. He was eventually charged with a summary count of animal cruelty and only had to pay a $905 fine — basically just a slap on the hand.

Those days have fortunately come to a well-deserved end. The new laws, which go into effect in 60 days, will increase the penalties for those who abuse or neglect animals in the state. It creates a new classification for offenders who cause the death or serious bodily injury of an animal. Those offenders could face third-degree felony charges.

The comprehensive package also includes the following new legislation:

  • Cordelia’s Law, named after a starved horse, would put penalties for animal cruelty crimes against horses on par with those for crimes against dogs and cats. It also provides protections for guide dogs.
  • A law prohibiting pets from being tethered outside all the time or in foul weather.
  • A law requiring those convicted of animal abuse to surrender their pets.
  • Civil immunity provided for veterinarians, veterinary technicians and humane society police officers to prevent frivolous lawsuits against them when they report animal cruelty in good faith.

It’s been a year in the making, but just as little Libre refused to give up, supporters of the bill named in his honor didn’t, either. Congratulations and my deepest gratitude to everyone who worked so hard to make Pennsylvania a safer place for animals.

To find out more about Libre and the wonderful people who helped get this law passed, please check out these stories:

Photo: governor.pa.gov