Representative, can you spare a word? Ok, well, if you contact him try not to compare him to the devil, even if that is how you perceive his actions on this topic....
On Aug. 21, I made the short trip to Radnor Township's Administration Building for a very important meeting hosted by State Representative Bryan Lentz of Delaware County.This meeting was the continuing road show to promote passage of three pieces of legislation up for consideration in Harrisburg. Three bills that any pet owner and dog lover who lives in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should support. Why? They would strengthen current dog and animal cruelty laws in Pennsylvania.
The first bill, H.B. 2525 would require, quite simply, more room for dogs in kennel enclosures, solid flooring, and access to outside runs twice the size of the kennel enclosure so the dogs could get a little exercise. As it stands now, these puppy mills keep dogs in disgusting, inhumane conditions. Crates are often stacked one on top of the other like boxes of potato chips in the grocery store. This bill would also require real annual veterinary care.
The second bill, H.B. 2532, would allow only veterinarians to perform debarking, which is something as a practice I find so disgusting I would prefer it outlawed. What is "debarking"? It is the practice of cutting a dog's vocal cords, to render them mute. How would humans feel if this was performed on them? This bill would also set parameters for tail docking.
The final piece of legislation is H.B. 499. Under this bill, fines would be increased for cruelty to animals. It would also require dog owners are charged with cruelty to pay reasonable expenses for the health and care of the dog while it is held at a shelter, or offer the option of ownership surrender. It is my humble opinion that the fines for animal cruelty cannot ever be high enough and they should be combined with a nice long visit in a jail cell.
In addition to Rep. Lentz, the panel I listened to that evening included, Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue; Jessie Smith, a special deputy in the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement (who brought her rescued Chow puppy to the meeting); and finally Tom Hickey, member of Governor Rendell's Dog Law Advisory Board.
They discussed in detail puppy mills, how they operate, and what they do to dogs. We saw photos of dogs trapped in what only can be described as hamster wheels on steroids, dead dogs discarded like yesterday's trash, and thousands of puppies with matted fur forced to live amongst huge piles of feces and puddles of urine in wire cages with wire floors to put their little paws upon.
Also discussed in length was the recent travesty outside Kutztown, where two puppy mill owners named Ammon and Elmer Zimmerman decided to shoot 80 dogs rather than provide them with veterinary care or turn them over to rescue groups. Yes, they took shotguns, and murdered 80 dogs. If you are a dog owner, look over to your pooch right now and imagine some unfeeling, cruel idiot putting a bullet between a dog's eyes and calling it a day.
Bill Smith also recounted the recent candlelight vigil at the Zimmerman farm outside Kutztown. He described how one of the Zimmerman brothers rode his bicycle down his farm driveway to see what was going on, and didn't understand what all the fuss was about. But to men like him, dogs are like ears of corn: a commodity to be bought and sold for profit, and discarded in the trash when no longer of use.
This legislation in Harrisburg is facing obstacles from a handful of PA House Members, including a man named Representative Art Hershey (Chester County, Pa.). He, along with a handful of others have tried to derail the legislation as well as bury it in amendments. As a matter of fact, it was reported that these unfeeling elected officials like Rep. Hershey have set some sort of a record by adding at least 115 nonsensical amendments to one of these pieces of legislation in order to derail it.
Art Hershey and his legislative and lobbying pals need to be sent a message. Contact your legislators and urge them to support H.B. 2525, H.B. 2532, and H.B. 499. Contact your local media outlets and urge them to keep covering animal cruelty cases, puppy mills, and urge them to go out and visit each and every one of these non-supportive, recalcitrant state legislators like Art Hershey and camp out on their doorsteps. (I wrote Art Hershey a while back myself. I am sure his response just got lost in the mail?)
My rescued dogs are not furry fashion accessories; they are a part of my family. I am writing this for them. As a dog owner, it's the least I can do for the unconditional love and companionship.
So do it for the dogs. Support this legislation. Support rescue operations like Main Line Animal Rescue locally, and the ASPCA nationally. It's also an election year, so if anyone comes knocking on your door asking for your support in either the state house or the state senate tell them you will think about it after they take a stand for the dogs.
It's an election year, so make this an election issue. If politicians can't support this legislation, then how can you trust them to represent you in Harrisburg? After all, even the Tin Man had a heart.
For further information check out www.doglawaction.com, www.stoppapuppymills.org, www.aspca.org and www.mlar.org
Carla J. Zambelli writes an occasional column for Main Line Life.