There is good news for animals and animal advocates from the Pennsylvania Legislature. On Sunday, June 30 the Senate passed HB-82, “The Costs of Care of Seized Animals Act,” sponsored by Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-12) by a vote of 47-3. The bill requires anyone charged with animal abuse to pay for the cost of the care of their animals for the duration of the court proceedings – or surrender them to a shelter for adoption.
Sponsored by Rep. Brian Ellis (R-11), HB-82 passed the Pennsylvania House on January 23, 2013 by a vote of 163-84. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
“This is excellent news for animals and animal welfare organizations in Pennsylvania,” said Jerry Buckley, CEO of the Pennsylvania SPCA. “We applaud lawmakers for addressing this important issue which affects thousands of animals in the state each year. We also thank concerned citizens and supporters of the Pennsylvania SPCA who contacted their representatives and senators to urge passage of this bill.”
With the passage, Pennsylvania joins 25 other states in providing a legal means for paying for the cost of care of seized animals.
The new bill provides important benefits:
- it shifts the financial burden of animal cruelty from non-profit shelters to those responsible for the animals’ suffering;
- it supports the enforcement of the animal cruelty laws;
- it expedites the release of animals from long-term confinement to permanent homes in many cases.
In 2012, the Pennsylvania SPCA petitioned the courts for $744,000 in restitution for the costs of care, but received only $31,000.
Animal owners are afforded due process rights in the form of an immediate hearing in which humane officers must prove their case. An amendment allows the court to establish a defendant’s “indigent” status to determine whether they could afford to pay the bills. This would apply only in cases where a single dog was involved, not multiple dogs, cats, horses or other animals. The bill caps fees at $15 a day, plus medical care. It will take effect 60 days from signing.