Friday, December 19, 2014

Legislature approves cost of care bill, Corbett to sign

Not since the puppy mill bill of 2008 have animal welfare advocates celebrated such a huge victory in the Pennsylvania legislature.

Legislature approves cost of care bill, Corbett to sign

Not since the puppy mill bill of 2008 have animal welfare advocates celebrated such a huge victory in the Pennsylvania legislature.

The House approved on Monday the so-called "cost of care" bill and Gov. Corbett has said he will sign it.

The House passed the bill 158-45, with five Philadelphia lawmakers voting against the bill, including Reps. Pam Delissio (D., Phila.), Marguerite Quinn *R., Bucks), Robert Godshall (R., Montgomery), Becky Corbin (R., Chester) Mary Jo Daley (D., Montgomery).

Delissio emailed this morning to say that she had not had enough information prior to the vote and will change her vote to "yes."

(To see how your Rep. and Senator voted click here.)

The law will help recover the costs to feed and provide medical care for animals that are shouldered daily by non-profit shelters across the state.

Under the law anyone charged with animal abuse must pay up to $15 a day plus medical costs for the care of their animals for the duration of the court proceedings - or surrender them to a shelter.

Now, cash-strapped shelters must carry the enormous costs of feeding and providing veterinary care for animals in abuse situations with the hope that a judge will order some restitution at the end of a court process that could last years.

Shelter operators tell me that convicted animal abusers rarely - if ever - pay back shelters for the care of their animals.

A portion of the money that animal abusers pay lawyers to file endless appeals - and even to sue shelters caring for animals - should be going to feed and restore the health of the animals seized, bill supporters said.

Two dozen states have similar laws.

In Pennsylvania thousands of animals are seized in cruelty cases each year from large puppy mills, hoarders and horse breeders.

Consider some of the more infamous cases in recent years:

The PSPCA paid $1 million to care for 250-plus sick and injured cats from Tiger Ranch over several years.

The cost, so far, for Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area and Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue for caring for a herd of wild Morgan horses: Approaching $100,000. (In this case, now in its seventh month, defendant Rebecca Roberts was convicted of cruelty in district court and has filed an appeal in Dauphin County court. set to be heard next week.)

The cost, so far, for Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter of caring for five Husky dogs belonging to a twice convicted of cruelty: $80,000.

Not only is it a burden on the shelter but animals in these cases are forced to live in kennel situations and temporary foster homes for long periods of time.

Last minute efforts by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to exempt farm animals including horses and presumably, dogs in puppy mills on farms was shot down. The American Kennel Club sent a letter to Gov. Corbett urging him to veto the bill saying it deprived animal owners of their due process rights.

Animal law expert Bruce Wagman, who helped draft the bill, said animal owners are indeed afforded due process rights in the form of an immediate hearing in which humane officers must prove their case.

An amendment would allow the court to establish a defendant's "indigent" status to determine whether they could afford to pay the bills. This would apply only in cases where a single dog was involved, not multiple dogs, cats, horses or other animals. Another would require repayment of care costs in cases when individuals are found not guilty. Those cases are extremely rare shelter operators said.

But every day headline appear in Pennsylvania about someone charged with animal cruelty and an animal, or two or two hundred, being taken in by a shelter or rescue.

And there are many more cases that do not make the news.

The law, which takes effect in 60 days, would cap fees at $15 a day, plus medical care.


 

 

Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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