Tuesday Wag April 20

Jack Wagner's motto? Let every paw count.

It's a dog eat dog world out there on the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign trail with four candidates duking it out for the nomination.

Last weekend Wagner, the state Auditor General, won the endorsement of the League of Humane Voters, represents  3,000 animal lovers across the state.

"The Pennsylvania chapter’s endorsement is based on Jack Wagner’s love for animals and his respect for our work," said Laurie Fuller, the league's statewide director. "We also appreciate his support for several of our key issues, including continued enforcement and strengthening of Pennsylvania’s laws to end the abuse of dogs in puppy mills, banning the use of the gas chamber to kill animals, ending caged animal shoots, and passing dog tethering legislation."

"If I am fortunate to be elected Governor, the LOHV and animal enthusiasts will have a friend in the Governor's Office who will work to strengthen those laws and move Pennsylvania toward far greater protections for animals," said Wagner.

Wagner also pledged to work with the league to appoint representatives to the Canine Health Board from the advocacy realm and small, private veterinarians whose top priorities are animal well-being. Wagner said his two dogs, Maxi and Baby, were thrilled when they learned about the endorsement.

Animal welfare activists were dealt a blow today by the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld a lower court ruling throwing out a federal anti-cruelty law as unconstitutional. The Humane Society of the United States said it was optimistic that Congress will be allowed to draft a more targetted statute to crack down on the sale of videos showing illegal acts of animal cruelty, including crushing of small animals for sexual gratification and dogfighting.

The statute at issue -- the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1999. It banned the interstate sale of videos of illegal and often extreme acts of animal cruelty depicted in an HSUS investigation that uncovered an underground subculture of animal crush videos. In the videos, puppies, kittens and other small animals are stomped, smothered and pierced to death, often by women wearing high-heeled shoes.

The Court's opinion in U.S. v. Stevens, the Supreme Court held that the Act was "overbroad" and might capture some depictions of acts that are illegal but not "cruel" in the common usage of the term.

In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority had struck down "a valuable statute that was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty--in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of crush videos, a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value."

Before the law was enacted in 1999, there were approximately 3,000 of these horrific videos available in the marketplace, selling for up to $300 apiece but after Congress enacted the law with overwhelming bipartisan support, that market all but disappeared. However, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals,  declared the law unconstitutional in July 2008, crush videos have once again proliferated on the Internet. Gov. Rendell's wife, Marjorie O. Rendell, sits on the court and sided with the majority in that ruling.

A case of hoarding brings cruelty agents to the doorstep of two sisters in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania SPCA officers raided a home in the Holmesburg section and removed 60 cats and a dog after neighbors complained of a foul odor coming from the house. Most of the cats had upper respiratory conditions and were flea-infested. The house was deemed unsuitable for humane or animal habitation. The two women are facing cruelty charges.  

Animal lovers can help stamp out pet homelessness when they drop a snail mail in the box. Next week the U.S. Postal Service will issue an Animal Rescue: Adopt a Shelter Pet special stamp in ten designs, designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC. The 44-cent stamps are being released to raise awareness of the need to adopt shelter pets.