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.” ••