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April 19, 2010

Pennsylvanians Gather at Capitol to Lobby for Animal Protection

HARRISBURG, Pa. — On Monday, animal advocates from across Pennsylvania are gathering at the State Capitol for Humane Lobby Day. Humane Lobby Day, hosted by The Humane Society of the United States, connects citizens with lawmakers to support animal welfare legislation. State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, is accepting the Humane Legislator Award for his leadership on a 2009 bill to require surgical procedures on dogs to be performed by a licensed veterinarian and to prevent puppy mills from performing invasive surgery on dogs without painkiller.

"Humane Lobby Day brings together animal advocates from across the state to meet with their legislators and work for stronger animal protection laws," said Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for The HSUS. "Pennsylvanians are urging their representatives to enact measures that would prohibit the cruel shooting of live birds for target practice, increase penalties for wildlife poaching and limit the continuous tethering of dogs."

Live animal trap shoots

Humane Lobby Day participants are asking the legislature to pass bipartisan anti-cruelty legislation to prohibit the mechanical launching and shooting of animals in competitions. HB 1411, introduced by Reps. Eugene DePasquale, D-95, and SB 843, introduced by Sen. Patrick Browne, R-16, would also prohibit the tethering of live targets.

A small circuit of live pigeon shoots exists in Pennsylvania, one of the last states to openly allow this cruel practice. Typically, 70 percent of the birds released in pigeon shoots are shot and wounded rather than killed outright, with some wounded animals escaping into the area to suffer for hours or days before dying. 

Penalties for wildlife poaching

Advocates are also urging lawmakers to pass legislation to strengthen the Commonwealth's anemic penalties for wildlife poaching. HB 1859 would increase penalties for wildlife crimes, including killing endangered species, operating commercial poaching operations, and assaulting a conservation officer. It would also elevate habitual poaching to a felony and add the possibility of jail time for many wildlife crimes. 

Pennsylvania has some of the weakest penalties for poaching in the country. Under current law, there is no possibility that a convicted poacher will face jail time unless the violation involves threatened or endangered species.

Wildlife officials estimate that for every animal killed legally, another is killed illegally, amounting to tens of millions of animals poached annually in the United States alone. It is estimated that only 1 percent to 5 percent of poachers are caught by law enforcement.

Dog tethering

Citizens are expressing their support for a bill to limit the tethering of dogs. It is currently legal in Pennsylvania to keep a dog chained or tethered 24 hours a day; this measure would limit the tethering of dogs to no more than two hours at a time, for no more than eight hours per day. In addition, it would put into place limits on the method and materials used to tether.

In many cases, the necks of tethered dogs become raw and covered with sores. Continuous tethering or chaining can also cause psychological harm, since dogs are inherently social animals. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes unhappy, anxious and often aggressive — becoming a greater public safety threat to the community.

Humane Legislator Award

State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone is accepting the Humane Legislator Award in recognition of his leadership in passing HB 39 in 2009, a bill that prohibits anyone but a licensed veterinarian, under anesthesia, from performing tail docking, surgical birth or debarking on dogs. The bill further cracks down on abusive puppy mills in Pennsylvania by preventing puppy mill operators from performing crude and painful surgeries themselves.

Last year, states across the country enacted 121 new laws for animals. The HSUS works with animal advocates and state legislators to enact laws protecting animals from cruelty, combating animal fighting, halting wildlife abuse and more.

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Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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