Governor Signs Stephens Animal Anti-Cruelty Legislation
Rep. Todd Stephens joins Gov. Tom Wolf at the bill signing of Stephens’ legislation to increase the penalties for animal abuse.
HARRISBURG—Legislation sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to update Pennsylvania’s existing animal abuse statutes and increase penalties for abusing animals has been signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The legislation, House Bill 1238, passed the House in April and was approved by the Senate last week. Stephens’ bill, which passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers, was crafted with input from the Senate and Democrats after it failed to pass in the previous term.

“It was clear that our animal abuse statute and penalties were inadequate,” Stephens said. “This is especially concerning because of the links between animal abuse and other forms of abuse, including domestic abuse and child abuse.”

“This is government that works,” Wolf said. “I applaud Rep. Stephens for bringing together his colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate to address animal abuse in the Commonwealth. I’m proud to sign this comprehensive animal protection bill protecting animals across Pennsylvania.”

Stephens’ legislation, now Act 10 of 2017, has been praised by the Pennsylvania SPCA as the most “comprehensive animal protection bill in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Rep. Todd Stephens joins Gov. Tom Wolf at the bill signing of Stephens’ legislation to increase the penalties for animal abuse.
The new law includes a section known as Libre’s Law, named after an emaciated Boston terrier saved from a Lancaster County farm and named Libre by his rescuers. But Stephens was also motivated by horrific cases of animal abuse involving turtles blown up with M-80s, and horses beaten severely for collapsing in the summer heat while pulling a wagon full of watermelons.

“We regrouped and decided to do something much bigger and much more comprehensive,” Stephens said. “House Bill 1238 has been called the most comprehensive animal protection bill in Pennsylvania history. Legislation like this doesn't happen on its own; it was crafted from ideas championed by many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and in the House and Senate.”

Rather than different penalties for different animals, the new law breaks down cruelty to animals into three categories based on the egregiousness of the conduct, including:

• Neglect of an animal, which include denying an animal necessary food and potable water, clean and sanitary shelter, or necessary veterinary care. This is a summary offense and becomes a third-degree misdemeanor if the violation causes bodily injury to the animal or places the animal in imminent risk of serious bodily injury.

• Cruelty to an animal, which includes intentionally, knowingly or recklessly ill-treating, overloading, beating, abandoning or abusing an animal. This is a second-degree misdemeanor.

• Aggravated cruelty to an animal, which includes intentionally or knowingly torturing an animal or causing serious bodily injury or death of the animal. This will be a third-degree felony.

In addition to increasing the penalties, the bill also provides:
• Guidelines for legally tethering dogs outdoors.
• Immunity for veterinarians who report animal abuse.
• Immunity for Humane Society police officers.
• Greater oversight and accountability of Humane Society police officers.
• Mandatory forfeiture of an animal subject to felony-level abuse.

“This is the most comprehensive animal protection bill in the Commonwealth’s history and would not have been possible without the determined efforts of my colleagues in the House and Senate, the governor and the thousands of advocates who contacted their elected officials expressing their support for the bill,” Stephens said.

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster

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