Cruelty bill clears another hurdle in Senate

It's fitting that the world's greatest cyclists are scaling the Pyrenees in the Tour de France right now, because an animal cruelty bill is taking a torturous route through the General Assembly.

The legislation, crafted to halt do-it-yourself surgeries by dog breeders, was bumped last session for the sweeping overhaul of kennel standards under the dog law. It was reintroduced as HB 39 by Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D., Berks), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who put it on the top of his agenda and pushed it through his committee in January. 

After unanimous passage in the House in March it went to the Senate where it sat in the Agriculture Committee for three months before being approved and routed to Judiciary where it, yes, sat again for two more months before passing unanimously today.

Why the wait? Apparently at least part of it had to do with a political battle between Caltagirone and his Senate counterpart Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Bucks), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which appeared to have ended recently when a log jam of bills held up in both committees from the other chamber started moving.

Animal welfare advocates praised the committee vote as an important step toward final passage. "This bill will end barbaric practices such as untrained and unskilled individuals legally performing surgery on dogs and will put stringent safeguards in place for other surgical procedures," said Tom Hickey a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board. 

But wait, it's not over yet. Senate leadership staff says the bill must go to Appropriations Committee before going to the Senate floor and then, assuming it passes, must go back to the House because it was amended in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The budget battle dragging on this summer may be a good thing for HB 39. The longer the General Assembly stays in session, supporters say, the better chance for passage before the summer break.