Anti-cruelty bill heads to Gov. Rendell's desk

The state House gave final approval (179-10) yesterday to animal cruelty legislation that would make it illegal for anyone other than a veterinarian to perform certain surgical procedures on dogs.

The bill (HB 39) would prohibit owners and breeders from performing debarking (cutting or destroying a dog’s vocal cords) and Caesarean sections on the dogs in their care. It also specifies that only vets shall perform ear cropping and tail docking on a dog over five days old. [Breeders may perform the procedure from birth to five days.)

The bill, first introduced last session, was re-introduced in January by sponsor Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks) who said he wanted to halt the practice of untrained individuals performing these complicated procedures.

"Hopefully this will stop these horrific practices from going on," said Caltagirone, who held up Senate bills in the Judiciary Committee which he chairs this spring, in order to pressure his counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Bucks) to move the cruelty bill out of his committee.

Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue, has saved a number of dogs from Pennsylvania puppy mills with mangled ears and tails, broken jaws, cracked teeth, scarred vocal chords from debarking and organs tied together with baling twine from botched C-sections, evidence that no vet performed the procedures. 

"One horror story after another," he said. "This brutal chapter in Pennsylvania history is over I hope as long as the law enforced."

A spokesman said Gov. Rendell will sign the legislation. The bill - except for an amendment allowing vets to perform tail docking between the ages of 5 days and 12 weeks - will take effect immediately. The amended provision will take effect in 60 days.

Lawmakers voting against the bill were:

Rep. Martin Causer (R., McKean); Rep. Thomas Creighton (R., Lancaster); Rep. Brian Ellis (R., Butler); Hutchinson(R); Rep. Carl Metzgar (R., Bedford); Rep. Donna Oberlander(R., Clarion); Rep. Jeffrey Pyle (R., Armstrong); Rep. Sam Smith (R., Jefferson); Rep. Curtis Sonney (R., Erie); Rep. Thomas Stevenson (R., Allegheny)