Pa. House passes its most comprehensive animal protection bill

There's a major victory in the fight against animal cruelty in Pennsylvania.

The most comprehensive animal protection bill to hit the floor in the history of the commonwealth has passed the House.

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. Right now, it's a summary and that's the equivalent of a traffic citation.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau fought parts of the bill again.

But this year's result is different.

House Bill 1238 passed the full house by a vote of 167-20. (Click here to see how your representative voted.)

Its sponsor, Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery County), had written to all House members, saying in part:

"It's become abundantly clear that our current animal abuse statute and penalties are inadequate and must be updated. This is especially concerning because of the links between animal abuse and other forms of abuse. According to the National District Attorney's Association 2014 publication, "Understanding the Link Between Violence to Animals and People":
--Animal abuse presents a risk of child abuse
--Animal violence may predict future violence against people
--Animal abuse is used to threaten human victims
--Animal abuse is used to prevent families from leaving the abusive home
--The co-occurrence of multiple forms of violence (including violence toward animals) increases future violence."

Next, the bill goes back to the state Senate and finally Gov. Wolf, if it passes this year.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

Click here to find the name of your Pennsylvania state senator (and representative) by simply entering your address.

This was Lucy's story from last October: