Pennsylvania's animal cruelty law gets survivor's paw print

'Our pets... depend on us for their care'

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation strengthening laws against animal cruelty and neglect in the state, and so has Libre, the Boston terrier puppy found emaciated and diseased last year at an animal breeding operation in Lancaster County.

"The story of Libre's shocking mistreatment and miraculous recovery helped spur a broader discussion of how we can better protect animals," said state Sen. Rich Alloway. "The result is a bill that not only toughens penalties against abusers, but also spells out the kind of treatment that is dangerous and unacceptable."

Wolf signed the bill in front of a crowd Wednesday on the state Capitol lawn before helping dip Libre's paw in ink and stamping it on the bill.

"Today is a day of celebration for all Pennsylvanians, and animal-lovers everywhere and I am proud to be a part of the true collaboration that helped make this landmark legislation a reality," Wolf said.

Berks County has also seen a few high-profile animal abuse cases in recent months. Among them were a cat that was dubbed Miracle Maisy after she was found doused with gasoline and discarded in a dumpster, and a malnourished Chihuahua that was named Lady Luck after being found in a trash can in downtown Reading.

Both animals have since been adopted.

Kristen Tullo of the Humane Society of the United States called the new law Pennsylvania's most comprehensive animal protection package in state history.

"This language in Libre's Law really makes it much easier for Humane Society police officers to prosecute people who are unlawfully tying animals outside," said Damon March of the Humane Society of Berks County.

The law establishes violations up to a felony for intentionally torturing an animal or for neglect or abuse that causes it severe injury or death. Animal abuse is currently a felony limited situations. Also, dog owners could be punished for tethering under certain situations.

"Our pets are part of our families and depend on us for their care, so it’s far past time that we ensure abusers face a punishment that matches the heinous nature of the crime," Alloway said.

The law will take effect in two months.

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