HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTXF) - History is made in Pennsylvania when Gov. Tom Wolf and a special canine signed the animal cruelty prevention bill at a public celebration, Wednesday, surrounded by advocates and members of the legislature.
Act 10, House Bill 1238 -- known as the Animal Abuse Statute Overhaul -- was introduced by Rep. Todd Stephens of Montgomery County. It and updates and clarifies the existing animal abuse statutes and increases the penalties for abusing animals.
The overhaul bill includes:
-- mandatory forfeiture of the abused animal to an animal shelter if the abuser is convicted,
-- stipulations to dog tethering,
-- increased protection for horses, and
-- civil immunity for veterinarians, veterinarian technicians, and humane society police officers to prevent frivolous lawsuits against these professionals when reporting animal cruelty in good faith.
"Today is a day of celebration for opportunity for all Pennsylvanians, and animal-lovers everywhere," Gov. Wolf said, "and I am proud to be a part of the true collaboration that helped make this landmark legislation a reality."
Besides the governor, a dog named Libre gave its pawprint to the measure. Libre experienced shocking mistreatment and also a miraculous recovery.
"Today we are sending a clear message that Pennsylvania will not tolerate animal cruelty in our state and will punish offenders to the fullest extent of the law," Rep. Stephens said. "This is the most comprehensive animal protection bill in the Commonwealth's history and would not have been possible without the determined efforts of my colleagues in the House and Senate, the Governor and the thousands of advocates who contacted their elected officials expressing their support for the bill."
Passing the most comprehensive animal protection bill to hit the floor in the history of the commonwealth was anything but easy.
You may remember last year, a bill that was almost as comprehensive passed the state Senate unanimously and Gov. Tom Wolf told FOX 29's Lucy Noland he was ready to sign it -- but at the end of the session in October, House leadership refused to even take it up.
The bill would've hit people with serious penalties for torturing, abusing or severely harming or killing an animal.
It would've also kept pets out of the hands of their abusers and made abuse a misdemeanor -- the equivalent of a traffic citation.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau fought parts of the bill again, but this year's result was different.
"The passing of House Bill 1238 is an historic legislative step toward protecting the animals of Pennsylvania from abuse and neglect. We applaud the Pennsylvania General Assembly for their wisdom and actions in humane leadership to move this legislation forward to Governor Wolf to sign into law," said Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania State Director, Humane Society of the United States. "Animal advocates from across the state and country deserve much credit as they joined forces in support of this legislation to make a difference toward passage of the bill."