House committee clears two key animal welfare bills

With stunning speed - and no opposition - the state House Agriculture committee approved two animal welfare bills on Monday.

House Bill 2630, sponsored by the committee's chairman Rep. John Maher (R., Allegheny), would ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers as a method euthanasia in animal shelters. A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester), passed the Senate in the spring.

Only a handful of animal control facilities in Pennsylvania still use the practice which is banned in several states and municipalities and is widely viewed as a cruel way to destroy unwanted animals. The act will allow shelters across the Commonwealth to obtain drugs necessary to euthanize animals in a humane manner by injection.

Rep. Joe Petrarca (D., Westmoreland), the committee's ranking Democrat, called the use of carbon monoxide gas "dangerous and barbaric."

"If an animal is to be euthanized, the very least we can do is provide animals with a more gentle means," he said.

A second bill, House Bill 2409, would hold animal owners responsible for the costs of care of animals that are seized by authorities. That bill, sponsored by Rep.. Brian Ellis (R., Butler) establishes that owners have a financial obligation for the care for their pets and therefore will be held responsible for costs of care if their animals are seized for cruelty or neglect.

By shifting the burden for the cost of care to the alleged abuser, the bill will reduce the financial burdens on shelters and encourage the vigorous investigation of animal cruelty, supporters say.

“This legislation will remove the enormous burden of the costs of care of seized animals currently borne by shelters across the Commonwealth” said Ellis in a statement. “I hope that this legislation will assist local shelters in expanding and preserving their important work in protecting animals from cruelty.”


Both bills are expected to go to the House floor for a final vote as early as next week. It is unclear what the Senate will do in the remaining two weeks of the legislative session. If the bills do not get final approval before the General Assembly goes on break for the election, in mid-Oct. the process will have to start all over again with the new session next year.