Gas chamber, shelter 'cost of care' bills slated for House votes today

CORRECTION - We reported that Rep. Mark Keller (R., Perry) opposed the gas chamber bill. It was in fact, Rep. Fred Keller (R., Union) who voted against it. Our apologies.

UPDATE: The state House passes legislation banning gas chambers in shelters by a vote of 189-6. The bill now heads to the Senate where top GOP staff say it is expected to win appoval (a version of the bill already passed the Senate earlier this year) and land on Gov. Corbett's desk by the end of the month. Current law makes it difficult for animal shelters in rural areas, such as Crawford County, where one of the last gas chambers is in operation, to obtain the drugs needed for humane lethal injection, because they lack access to a veterinian. 

Under the new law, a shelter could apply to the Board of Pharmacy for approval to purchase the drugs, namely sodium pentobarbitol. "The swift passage of HB 2630 means the tragic euthanasia of cats and dogs by gas chambers in Pennsylvania will soon come to an end," said bill sponsor Rep. John Maher (R., Allegheny).

Those who voted against the bill were Reps. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), Brad Roae (R., Crawford - one of the last counties with an animal facility that uses gas chambers), Jerry Stern (R., Blair), Fred Keller (R., Armstrong), Curt Sonney (R., Erie) and Scott Perry (R., York) (who is expected to easily win the U.S. House seat held by retiring Rep. Todd Platts in the Nov. election.)

Pennsylvania could soon join 19 other states that ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in shelters.

The measure, championed by Rep. John Maher (R., Allegheny) in the House and Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) in his chamber, is scheduled for final passage in the House today. 

The House will be considering HB 2630 - the Maher version - which must go back to the Senate for final passage. House and Senate session are broadcast live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. 

Also slated for a vote is HB2409, also known as the "Cost of Care bill" which makes a defendant pay the cost of care for seized animals in abuse cases, or allows forfeiture of the animal. For more on why shelters say the cost of care bill is needed click here Both bills was given unanimous approval by the House agriculture committee.

To read descriptions of bills and track where they stand in the legislature check the General Assembly's Electronic Bill Room. Hint, try to get the bill number (HB stands for House bill and SB stands for Senate bill) ahead of time. Searching by topic can be tricky.

In other Capitol news, Humane PAC, the advocacy group for animal welfare issues in the legislature has released its list of endorsements in the 2012 election. Go to its website for more info.