Stephens Introduces Animal Cruelty Overhaul, Increases Penalties
HARRISBURG—Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) has introduced legislation to re-write Pennsylvania’s animal abuse laws and significantly increase the penalties for animal cruelty.

“It has become abundantly clear that our current animal abuse statute and penalties are inadequate and must be updated,” Stephens said. “This is especially concerning when you consider the links between animal abuse and other forms of abuse.”

According to the National District Attorneys Association 2014 publication, “Understanding the Link Between Violence to Animals and People”:

• Animal violence may predict future violence against people.
• Animal abuse presents a risk of child abuse.
• 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.

Stephens, a former prosecutor who grew up on a horse farm, began working on the legislation earlier this summer after several egregious acts of animal cruelty in Lancaster County came to light including a horse who was allegedly shot with paintballs, a horse who collapsed carrying a load of watermelons and was beaten so badly it had to be euthanized, and a turtle who was blown up with firecrackers. In each instance offenders could only be charged with summary offenses – the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

“Right now, the penalties for seriously abusing an animal are too light and vary depending on the type of animal. The penalties should be dependent on the abuser’s conduct not the type of animal that was abused,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ bill will restructure, increase and more clearly delineate the penalties for animal abuse maintaining a summary offense for minor offenses, while ensuring more serious acts are subject to misdemeanor charges and providing that anyone convicted of the most egregious acts of animal abuse are subject to a felony.

Current law only allows a felony conviction for animal fighting, seriously abusing zoo animals or an endangered species or the repeated serious abuse of cats or dogs. Stephens’ bill will also provide for escalating penalties for repeat offenders.

“This overhaul of our animal cruelty laws is long overdue. It’s about time we got serious with those who seriously abuse, torture or kill our animals just to cause them pain,” Stephens said.

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
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