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Rep. McNeill Reintroduces 'Victoria's Law' Bill to Protect Animals from Puppy Mills, Inhumane Conditions | WDIY Local News

Miha Arh

A Lehigh Valley state lawmaker has reintroduced a bill cracking down on puppy mills and inhumane breeding practices.

State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-133rd announced Wednesday that she has reintroduced legislation to protect animals from inhumane treatment in the puppy mill industry.

According to a release the bill, designated HB 846 or Victoria’s Law, would drive Pennsylvania’s pet market to more human sources, such as shelters, rescues or responsible breeders. The bill is currently awaiting a committee assignment for consideration.

The bill would protect pet seekers from misleading sales tactics, stop the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rabbits, and require advertisers to include license numbers on their advertisements so consumers have access to information about the breeders.

The legislation is named after Victoria, a German Shepherd rescued from a Pennsylvania puppy mill after 10 years of breeding.

According to a release, by the time Victoria was rescued she was paralyzed as a result of a genetic neurological disorder called Degenerative Myelopathy, which she passed down to an estimated 150-200 puppies she produced while at the puppy mill.

McNeill and fellow State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro and Melissa Schusterman also proposed another three-bill package to protect animals in the state, according to a memo posted Tuesday.

The memo said the new package builds upon similar reforms passed in Virginia which restrict the import and sale of animals from kennels and dealers with serious or multiple citations under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The reforms would also require individuals breeding dogs and cats for medical or scientific experimentation to keep records, enhance animal adoption options and close loopholes that prevented cruelty to animal charges.

The first proposed bill is called the “Beagle Freedom Bill.” Its changes include:

  • Requiring people who breed dogs and cats for sale to animal testing facilities and the testing facilities themselves to offer dogs and cats for adoption once the animals are no longer needed and adoption poses no risk to the animal or to the public.
  • Prohibiting the sale or import of dogs or cats bred by a kennel or by a person that has received certain serious or numerous citations for violations of the Animal Welfare Act as companion animals (pets) or for research purposes.
  • Requiring that kennels selling dogs or individuals or businesses selling cats for research purposes to maintain records for individual animals and submit an annual summary of that to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
  • Offering whistleblower protection to employees who report violations of this act, the federal Animal Welfare Act, Title 18’s Cruelty to Animals Statute or the Dog Law.
  • Establishing a third-degree misdemeanor penalties.
  • Requiring annual reports to be submitted from the Department of Agriculture to the state legislature, with a 120-day effective date.

The second would amend Pennsylvania’s Dog Law by prohibiting the sale or import of dogs bred in kennels or by dealers from facilities that have received citations for violations of the Animal Welfare Act as pets or for medical experimentation.
The memo says while the current Dog Law allows kennel licenses to be revoked from violations of state animal cruelty laws or from similar violations of other state statutes, the new bill extends that protection to violations of federal law.

It would also offer whistleblower protection to employees who report violations of the Dog Law, Title 18’s Cruelty to Animals provisions or the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The third bill would amend Title 18 – Cruelty to Animal Statute by narrowing exemptions to facilities “relating” to medical or scientific research. It also extends existing protections under the animal cruelty statute to animals “bred for research and to animals possessed by testing labs not actively involved in bona fide scientific or medical research.”

This legislation would also offer similar whistleblower protection as the previous two bills to violators of Title 18, the Dog Law or the Animal Welfare Act.

(Original air-date: 4/6/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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