Comprehensive Animal Cruelty Act 10 (formerly HB 1238) AKA Libre’s Law

comprehensiveHB 1238, now Act 10 is now law!  Huge congratulations to all of you who contacted your legislators and helped make this happen! This was a true team effort!

HB 1238, introduced by Rep. Todd Stephens and 30 co-sponsors is a bi-partisan, comprehensive, anti-cruelty bill that not only provides needed updates to Pennsylvania’s cruelty statute, but adds many provisions of various cruelty bills that have been introduced this session including Senator Alloway’s and Rep Ryan Bizzaro’s Libre’s Laws strengthening penalties, tethering language, equine protections and more.  It is great to see so many humane legislators* get together to offer a comprehensive anti-cruelty bill. Here are some of the highlights:

Animal cruelty overhaul facts:

What does it do?

Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty code was originally drafted in 1983. Since then it has been amended several times creating a piecemeal cruelty code that is often difficult to interpret.  This legislation restructures the statute and makes it reflect the rest of Pennsylvania’s criminal law which means it will be easier for law enforcement to understand and use.

What is changing?

The biggest change is that for the first time ever in PA, it will be possible to file felony level penalties for first time cruelty offenses outside of animal fighting or killing an endangered species.

Animal Cruelty:

Rather than a single section (5511(C)) lumping together every form of cruelty, the legislation breaks down the penalties for different grades of cruelty and different penalties based on the egregiousness of the conduct and how many prior offenses there have been. Here is a quick breakdown:

  1. Section 5532 Neglect of an animal – failure to provide necessary food, water, shelter or veterinary care
    1. Penalty: Summary offense – up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.
    2. Penalty: if neglect causes bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk of serious bodily injury – Misdemeanor of the second or third degree – up to 1 year in jail and/or $2,000 fine.
  2. Section 5533 Animal cruelty – intentionally, knowingly or recklessly illtreats, overloads, beats, abandons or abuses and animal and the treatment causes bodily harm to the animal.
    1. Penalty: Summary offense – up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.
    2. Penalty: if neglect causes bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk of serious bodily injury – Misdemeanor of the second degree – up to 1 year in jail and/or $2,000 fine.
  3. Section 5534 Aggravated cruelty – torturing an animal or violating either of the above sections and causing serious bodily injury or death of an animal.
    1. Penalty: Felony of the third degree – up to 7 years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine.


The legislation also places reasonable limitations on the continuous tethering of dogs outside including the following:

  1. Bans tethering a dog outside without providing for its basic needs as defined under Section 5532.
  2. Creates a presumption that the dog has been neglected as defined in section 5532 if the following are present
    1. The dog is tethered for more than 9 hours within a 24 hour period.
    2. The tether is not secured to a well-fitting collar with a swivel and by a tether of less than 10 feet or three times the length of the dog whichever is longer.
    3. The dog does not have access to water and an area of shade.
    4. The dog is tethered for longer than 30 minutes when the temperature is over 90 degrees or under 32 degrees.
    5. Excessive waste in the tethered area.
    6. Open sores or wounds on the dog’s body.
    7. The use of a tow or log chain or choke, pinch, prong, or chain collar.

Read more about the tethering law.

Civil immunity will be provided for veterinarians, vet -techs and Humane Society Police Officers:

Veterinarians and vet-techs – this legislation provides a shield from lawsuits for these professionals when they report animal cruelty in good faith.

Humane Society Police Officers – provides a shield from frivolous law suits, which is standard for all other law enforcement officials in PA and protects officers for doing their jobs well.

Related:  The Path from Idea to Bill to Law in Pennsylvania

*A special shout out to Representatives Todd Stephens, Ryan Bizzarro, Frank Farry, Chris Sainato, Keith Greiner, Mark Keller, Dom Costa, and Senators Richard Alloway and John Eichelberger for their efforts for their contributions to this bill. Thank you!


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