Philly Dawg bids farewell

I launched this blog in January 2009, only a few months after Gov. Ed Rendell signed into law legislation creating the toughest law in the nation governing commercial dog breeding kennels - widely known as "puppy mills."

The bill signing did not come without a fight. The battle waged between dog breeders and their supporters and animal welfare advocates raged for two years and generated more public comment than any other single piece of legislation in state history.

Since then, the tide has turned dramatically for animals in the Commonwealth. Most of the largest kennels and the worst violators shut down. Humane PA PAC, which tracks animal-related legislation, has counted a record number of pro-animal bills moving through the legislature and lawmakers are vying for the PAC's endorsement.

Over the last six years I have tried to shine a light on animal issues in the Capitol and beyond. Readers learned here first of the slaughter of 80 small breed dogs - shot in their wire cages by licensed kennel operators who resisted a dog warden's order to get flea treatment. That incident in the summer of 2008 shocked the animal-loving public and helped galvanize efforts that led to the dog law's passage.

Evidence of violations of a consent order uncovered here in 2009 led Attorney General Tom Corbett to finally shut down CC Pets/Puppy Love kennel in Lancaster County, one of the most notorious puppy mill operators, which had sold sick dogs to hundreds of unsuspecting families over the course of two decades.

In 2009 the Eagles decision to sign Michael Vick, convicted for running  dog fighting ring, incensed dog lovers, some of whom boycotted the team and ripped up their season tickets in protest. That decision spurred the Eagles to begin funding shelters and inspired anti-dog fighting efforts in the city. I followed the progress of the Vick dogs - most through the hard work of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary - here on these pages as they learned how to be dogs again after years in the fighting ring.

In those six years there has been a sea change in the attitudes of Big Agriculture toward animal welfare as evidenced by the movement to phase in humane animal housing by one of the nation's largest food distribution companies - Philadelphia's own Aramark and also Hatfield Quality Meats, one of the country's largest pork producers..

Still undercover video by the Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals, SHark and Animals Angels depicting operations on Pennsylvania's poultry farms and at live pigeon shoots and livestock auctions is evidence, those groups say, that cruelty remains.

In recent years the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has stepped up its efforts to crack down on illegal kennels and the Pennsylvania SPCA has increased its work to apprehend and prosecute animal abusers in Philadelphia and beyond. But many parts of the state suffer from having too few - or no - humane society police officers and shelters.

Now, after almost 1,600 blog posts, it is time for Philly Dawg to say farewell. My departure comes with word of the premiers in May -  in New York and Philadelphia - of "Dog By Dog," a documentary tracing the connection between money, the federal government and commercial dog breeding. Among those interviewed for the film is me.

Anyone interested in following developments in animal-related legislation should bookmark the Humane PA PAC website and Facebook page. For now I will continue to tweet @inkyamy and will post to the Philly Dawg Facebook page.