Activists to rally for tougher humane laws

Ending pet gas chambers and 24/7 dog chaining. Stiffening the puppy lemon law and silencing the guns used in pigeon shoots. Closing the loophole in the state dog law that allows nursing mothers to stand on wire flooring and better protection for cats in the Commonwealth.

These are some of the issues animal welfare activists will be demanding the legislature take up this fall session during a rally on the steps of the Capitol tomorrow.

A raft of animal protection bills have been languishing too long in the General Assembly, advocates say. Some have been around for just a few years. Others, like legislation to outlaw pigeon shoots have been stalled for decades, stymied by Pennsylvania's hunting culture and the National Rifle Association (despite a feeling among many hunters that shooting birds from spring-loaded boxes at close range does not constitute "fair chase."

(Read a profile of the state's chief champion of pigeons and her decades-long struggle to stop their slaughter, by columnist Walter Brasch here.)

Also on the agenda: reforming the state's 2008 dog law to close what Rendell administration offiicals have described as a loophole that allows nursing mothers to spend months on wire flooring. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines the issue in a story today.

Rep. Bryan Lentz (D., Delaware) says he will introduce an amendment to the dog law as early as this week requiring nursing mothers to be housed on the same flooring as all other adult dogs, which means either solid or slatted flooring.

The current law however only applies to so-called commercial kennels (of which there are 111 remaining) transfering or selling 60 dogs a year or selling a single dog to a pet store. The vast majority of the state's 2,500 dog kennels do not meet that definition and therefore can keep their dogs on wire for their entire lives.

The issue for dog wardens continues to be enforcement of illegal kennels. There have been cases of the kennel owners who give up their licenses and continue to breed dogs, as well as the many underground kennels that may sell hundreds of dogs a year, but keep only 25 (the maximum allowed before a license is required) on site at any one time.

There is evidence that breeders who have surrendered their kennel licenses - and even those whose license has been revoked because of animal cruelty convictions, continue to sell dogs on the Internet. The challenge for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement - particularly without the ability to enter a property of a non-license holder without a warrant - is catching individuals with more than 25 dogs or more the 60 dogs for a commerical license.

Here's a rundown of speakers and issues for Monday's event which begins at 11 a.m.

Among the speakers: Tamira Thayne of Dogs Deserve Better, Karel Minor of the Humane Society of Berks County, Dr. Thomas Gemmill from United Against Puppy Mills, Dr. Jennifer Fry from The Fairchild Foundation, Tina Sowicz of North Penn Puppy Mill Watch, Steven Hoover from the Western PA League of Humane Voters, Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue and Jenny Stephens of North Penn Puppy Mill Watch.

Among the topics on the agenda:

Senate Bill 1435 - limit the number of hours in a day a dog may be tethered
Senate Bill 1417 - moving the Bureau of Dog Law out of the Dept of Agriculture
Senate Bill 672 - abolish gas chamber euthanasia in PA shelters
Senate Bill 673 - require shelters to hold felines for at least 48 hours, as dogs are, prior to euthanizing
Senate Bill 50 - revision of the "Puppy Lemon Law"
House Bill 614 - increase the length of time dogs must be held at shelters to 96 hours prior euthanizing

Protection for Cats and TNR Programs

Act 119: Regulations for flooring and access to exercise for dogs trapped in PA Puppy Mills