Stack, Leach introduce animal-protection bills

There’s new le­gis­la­tion in the works to pro­tect the an­im­als who live in Pennsylvania and the ones com­ing in­to the state.

At a news con­fer­ence held out­side the Mont­gomery County SPCA last Wed­nes­day, state Sens. Daylin Leach and Mike Stack in­tro­duced a pack­age of an­im­al pro­tec­tion bills.

“One of the meas­ures of any so­ci­ety is how it treats the de­fense­less and power­less,” said Leach. “And in our case, that can cer­tainly mean our policies to­ward wild­life and com­pan­ion an­im­als.”

Some of the bills had prac­tic­al im­plic­a­tions for com­mon pets. Bill 1176, for in­stance, seeks to pre­vent land­lords in the state from dis­qual­i­fy­ing pet own­ers who don’t have their cats de­clawed or dogs de­voc­al­ized.

Prac­tices like these, Stack said, are “not only in­hu­mane, they’re ill-ad­vised.”

Along with caus­ing the an­im­als a great deal of pain, they of­ten aren’t ef­fect­ive. Cats who are de­clawed will of­ten chew or spray fur­niture to mark their ter­rit­ory, Stack ex­plained. And, de­bark­ing has a neg­at­ive psy­cho­lo­gic­al ef­fect on dogs that can make them un­pre­dict­able and dan­ger­ous.

Stack also stressed that these new meas­ures would not pre­vent land­lords from char­ging high­er rent or safety de­pos­its to renters with pets.

“It’s not an at­tempt to dic­tate to busi­ness own­ers. We want busi­nesses to suc­ceed, but we be­lieve they should do so in a safe way, and in a hu­mane way, “ he said.

And while Leach’s bills ad­dress the same ideas, they’re meant for an­im­als who aren’t in­di­gen­ous to the state.

Already in mo­tion is Bill 340, which calls for a ban on the pos­ses­sion of shark fin products. And, last week, Leach and Stack in­tro­duced a new meas­ure in the Sen­ate that calls for an end to “bull hook­ing” ele­phants, a prac­tice where train­ers use a sharp tool to pain­fully pierce the skin of an ele­phant as a train­ing tool.

Leach noted that ele­phant train­ers in the state’s zoos and sanc­tu­ar­ies use only pos­it­ive re­in­force­ment. But that’s not al­ways true of pa­chy­derms vis­it­ing Pennsylvania.   

“The prob­lem we have is … cir­cuses and oth­er trav­el­ing acts … that use the bull hooks right in the middle of the show,” he noted.

Sim­il­arly, there aren’t a lot of sharks in Pennsylvania — but their fins are plen­ti­ful.

“Shark fins are of­ten sold at eth­nic res­taur­ants … for a lot of money as a del­ic­acy,” he said. “But in or­der to ob­tain them, fish­er­men cut off the fins and re­lease the sharks, “leav­ing them to die a slow death.”

Cur­rently, it’s il­leg­al to fin a shark, but not to pos­sess the fins. With Bill 340, Leach seeks to close that loop­hole. 

The bills were well re­ceived by both loc­al and statewide rep­res­ent­at­ives. “I’d like to thank both Sen. Stack and Sen. Leach for their ef­forts to pro­mote hu­mane treat­ment for all the an­im­als in our state,” said Car­men Ro­nio, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Mont­gomery County SPCA.

And, Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania dir­ect­or for the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States, called the bills an im­port­ant step to­ward mak­ing Pennsylvania one of the most an­im­al-friendly states in the coun­try.

Speed dir­ec­ted at­ten­tion to the bills seek­ing to ban live pi­geon shoots and “canned hunt­ing” fa­cil­it­ies, where people can hunt cer­tain an­im­als in en­closed areas. And, she praised the bills for be­ing geared to a wide range of an­im­als, in­clud­ing those who aren’t al­ways on people’s minds.

“We want to pro­tect all an­im­als,” said Speed. “Not just the ones that sleep in our houses at night.” ••

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