Animal Cruelty Bill Clears House Committee

Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D., Berks), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, made good on his promise to put animal cruelty legislation at the top of his agenda with the start of the new legislative session.

A bill that bar anyone except a veterinarian from cutting a dog's vocal cords or performing a Cesarean section unanimously cleared his committee on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Caltagirone, also would forbid owners and breeders from performing any ear cropping or tail docking after a puppy is five days old.

The bill (HB39) contains similar language to legislation that passed the House last session but stalled in the Senate amid negotiations over the controversial dog law bill.

"I want to protect our little pets from the inhumane things people do to them," said Caltagirone. Animal rescue groups who take unwanted dogs from commercial kennel owners have reported evidence of backyard "debarking," using pipes shoved down a dog's throat and botched C-sections. Breeders' groups have denied their members engage in such practices.

If the bill becomes law, dog wardens would be responsible for ensuring that kennel operators have proof these procedures were performed by a vet and would be instructed to report evidence of injury or health problems related to amateur operations. 

Caltagirone said in a concession to breeders, the bill extends the number of days a non-vet could perform tail docking to five days from the original three days. Caltagirone said he expects the bill to reach the House floor as early as next week.