A Pennsylvania appeals court has dealt a blow to the state's animal cruelty law.
In a ruling issued Friday, the state Superior Court found that the law is so ambiguous that owners cannot be prosecuted for shooting their dog or cat.
The case involved involved a Carbon County woman,Wendy Colleen Kneller, who was charged with conspiracy for giving a gun to her boyfriend and telling him to shoot her six-year-old pit bull/chow mix, claiming it bit her child. Her lawyer, Paul Levy, said some people can not afford to take the dog to the vet to be euthanized.
"...the normal assumption's going to be that they're going to make sure their pet is disposed of in a humane manner," he told the Associated Press.
In his dissent, Justice Correale Stevens wrote that he did not believe "the legislative intent was to give carte blanche authority of a dog owner to kill her dog for any reason or no reason."
"A sweeping policy conclusion that a dog owner can shoot a healthy, happy dog for no reason ... would replace the call of 'Lassie, come home' with 'Lassie, run for your life,'" Stevens wrote.
Attorney Garen Meguerian said he finds the ruling troublesome. "The court was trying to make clear that if you want the law to prohibit shooting an animal you have to put it in the criminal code not the dog law."
What the Associated Press story did not report was that the dog, Bouta, was beaten in the head with a shovel before being shot. A veterinarian testified the cause of death was blunt force trauma and gun shot, which clearly met the "malicious and willful," under the law, said Meguerian.
Tom Hickey, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board, says he will call several lawmakers this week to discuss a legislative remedy.
Legal experts say the ruling on a 2006 case will not affect the new dog law, which was amended last fall to ban breeders from shooting their dogs.
Under the law, signed by Gov. Rendell in October, kennel owners may not shoot their dogs and instead must take their animals to a veterinarian to be euthanized. Animal welfare advocates fought for that provision after an August incident where a Berks County kennel owner shot 80 dogs and threw them on his compost pile after a dog warden ordered him to seek vet care for some dogs with severe flea bites.