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April 28, 2011

Pennsylvania Legislature Launches Animal Protection Caucuses

  • Pennsylvania lawmakers and animal advocates celebrated as the Pennsylvania legislature became the second in the nation with Animal Protection Caucuses. Rob Cleapor

April was a historic month for animals in Pennsylvania. On April 12, a group of lawmakers and animal advocates kicked off the new Animal Protection Caucuses in the Pennsylvania State Assembly. Following California, Pennsylvania is the second state to have bipartisan legislative Animal Protection Caucuses.

State Senator Daylin Leach is chair of the Senate Animal Protection Caucus, while Representative John Maher chairs the House Animal Protection Caucus. “I think animal protection is the sort of issue that transcends party,” said Sen. Leach. “I think that, as legislation makes its way through the process, it is good that there is a group of Republicans and Democrats who meet and talk about how to achieve the best result at the end of the day to make conditions for animals a little bit better.”

Meeting as a caucus will give advocates and legislators a chance to coordinate more closely, says Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. “One of the things the caucuses will do is help us make sure that when bills are filed, they are well researched and will solve problems,” she said. “We are going to be inviting all members of the House and Senate to join. They will be able to have open discussions on the merits of proposals, across party lines.”

The caucuses are working on legislation to ban cruel live pigeon shoots and prohibit pari-mutuel operations in the state which simulcast greyhound racing so that people can bet on the races. Although greyhound racing is banned in Pennsylvania, the state still allows simulcasting betting operations.

Amy Kaunas, executive director of the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area, will be working with the Animal Protection Caucuses on legislation to make it illegal to tether dogs outside for 24 hours. Too many dogs in the state, she says, are inhumanely chained outside through rain, cold and snow. “We get a lot of calls about the issue of chained dogs. People already think it is illegal, but it’s not,” Kaunas said. “There is a continual need to raise awareness. I am hoping that the caucuses brings issues to the table and provides opportunities for people to get educated.”

“My hope,” Kaunas added, “is that lawmakers will educate themselves together on what laws are on the books, and also realize what limited resources we have to enforce them.”

Pennsylvania residents, ask your representatives to join the Senate or House Animal Protection Caucus (and thank them if they already have). Find your state legislators>>

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