Vick takes field, Rendell signs dog bill

On the day Michael Vick made his debut as a Philadelphia Eagle, Gov. Rendell signed an anti-animal-cruelty bill that, among other things, increases penalties for dog-fighting.

The new law - most elements of which take effect in 60 days - makes it illegal for anyone but a veterinarian to perform the following surgical procedures:

Cropping, trimming or cutting off an ear;
Debarking by cutting or injuring the vocal cords;
Docking or cutting off the tail of a dog over five days of age;
Surgically birthing a dog; and
Removing the dewclaws from a dog over five days of age.

“Until now, these cruel practices could be carried out by dog owners without proper training and without supervision by a licensed vet, which could lead to long-term injury, pain and, in some cases, death to these defenseless animals,” said Rendell, speaking at a bill signing ceremony outside the Capitol.

Animal lovers and their four-footed friends attended, including Pennsylvania's First Dog, Maggie - one of two rescue dogs owned by Rendell and his wife Midge - who was living in an oversized rabbit hutch at a kennel in Lancaster when a volunteer from Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs found her in 2007.

"She was a breeder dog at an Amish farm and her third litter was stillborn," said Rendell, explaining why the breeder gave her up. "She never had a C-section but she could have as many of the breeder dogs on farms do."

"This is the culmination of years of hard work," said the bill's sponsor Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks). "The sad truth is that many dogs in in Pennsylvania are subjected to terrible surgical procedures that border on torture."

The paw print of Rubin, a dog who belongs Caltagirone's chief counsel Bill Andring, adorned a ceremonial version of the bill.

Under the new law, kennel owners must keep a record of any of the listed surgeries, including the vet who performed it, as well as the location and date where the surgery was performed.

The Department of Agriculture spokesman Justin Fleming said if a dog warden sees an animal on which the procedures were performed without records they would refer the case as a crueltly complaint to a local humane officer or police department.

The law also makes it a third degree felony to steal an animal for the purpose of dog fighting.

Michael Vick, who spent 18 months in prison for his role in a brutal dog fighting ring, got a standing ovation from the crowd at the half full stadium when he took the field during tonight's Eagles game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Among the speakers at the bill signing today was Marsha Perelman, president of the board of the ASPCA, which issued a stinging rebuke of the Eagles decision to sign Vick.

Perelman, also a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board, praised a newly-fit Rendell for “carrying the ball” on the issue.

“Being in the shape he’s in today, I would rather he be running the ball on the field tonight at the Linc, rather than the person who is going to be doing so.”