What will HB 869 do?
If the language stays the same as the 2016 session – this bill will accomplish the following:
- Requires that upon conviction of a misdemeanor level charge of animal cruelty, the abused animals be forfeited to an animal shelter
- Adds horses to the enhanced penalty for torturing a dog or cat.
- Puts reasonable limitations in place for tethering a dog outside as a main means of confinement, including: a. Cannot tether for longer than 9 hours in a 24 hour period, however may tether for up to an hour to permit the dog or owner to complete a temporary task b. Cannot tether using a choke, pinch or pronged collar c. Must take reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from getting entangled d. Cannot tether for longer than 30 minutes if the weather is under 30 degrees or over 90
- Creates an offense of aggravated cruelty to animals which includes torturing or abusing an animal and causing bodily injury which is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or if it causes serious bodily injury, a felony.
Below is a brief history of what happened in 2016 and why it died without a vote.
HB 869 was originally introduced in the 2015/16 session by Representative Ryan Bizzarro to amend our Cruelty Statute with a requirement that convicted animal abusers must forfeit custody of pets and it passed the PA House unanimously. Libre’s story of miraculous recovery from near death sparked a surge of public outcry to the PA General Assembly for improvement of animal cruelty and neglect laws. Libre, and other cases of cruelty across the state, heightened awareness of the need for revision of animal protection laws. In response, on October 19th, Senator Alloway added an amendment to HB 869 that passed the PA Senate unanimously with an animal protection package.
What happened? Why did this historic, common sense bill not get a vote in the House of Representatives?
Here is the sequence of events that led us to where we are now (includes a link the language of the bill after each amendment):
- HB 869, introduced by Representative Ryan Bizzarro, passed the PA House unanimously on April 5th 2016. The bill required that convicted animal abusers must forfeit custody of pets. Bill language: Printer #1064
- The bill was amended in the Senate by Senator Richard Alloway with the animal protection package, including SB 1372-Libre’s Law (increases penalties for heinous animal abuse), SB 294-Cordelia’s Law (adds protection for horses) and anti-24/7 tethering language, and it passed unanimously on Oct 19th. Bill language: Printer #4070
- HB 869 was amended in Rules Committee on Oct. 25 to address concerns/opposition that some rural Representatives, the Farm Bureau and the AKC had about the tethering section. It was amended, then passed committee unanimously and was sent to the House and scheduled for a concurrence vote. Bill language: Printer #4121
- With only a day to go until session ended, it was sent back to the Rules Committee on Oct.26th after a group of rural legislators, and the pro-pigeon shoot lobby including the NRA, raised strong opposition because they were concerned about the torture language affecting cruel live pigeon shoots. While it is validating that the pro-pigeon shoot lobby conceded that these cruel contests belong in the same category as torture, the introduction of the amendment delayed a vote on HB 869. It was amended to address those issues so that the bill would not be killed by this lobby. The groups who were in opposition have now withdrawn their opposition. Bill language: Printer #4144
- After being amended, the bill had to wait for 24 hours for a vote. Although a 2/3 majority could have suspended the rules, an additional session day had been added and not all of the supporters of the bill were there, so the bill did not receive a vote. Had those obsessed with saving cruel live pigeon shoots, let the bill get a vote on Wed night – it would be law by now.
- A last-minute push for the bill took place on Nov. 14 and 15. An amendment pushed by the Farm Bureau was offered but withdrawn after heavy pressure, but House Leadership chose to not take any substantive votes either day.
The best course of action for you now is to politely contact and or meet with your own State Representative to ask them if they can help pass this bill early this session. We had strong support for this bill – 100% of Democrats and approximately 50% of Republicans supported it. Prepare yourself for a long haul – the bill will now have to go through committees and both chambers.
Great coverage of the sequence of the attempt to pass HB 869 from Lucy Noland FOX 29