It was a quiet conclusion to a most public battle on the most fitting of days.
After sundown late yesterday, at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Gov Rendell signed legislation aimed at curbing inhumane treatment of dogs in large breeding kennels.
(Don't despair, dog lovers the governor is expected to hold a ceremonial bill signing at a yet-to-be-determined location late next week)
The bill (HB 2525) championed by the state's top dog Ed Rendell, Oprah Winfrey and thousands of animals lovers will:
Ban wire flooring, eliminate cage stacking, double cage sizes and require exercise and twice yearly veterinary exams. It also will give dog wardens increased enforcement power and require breeders to cover the costs of care of their dogs when they are seized in cruelty cases.
The bill received final passage with overwhelming support on the last day of the 2007-2008 legislative session. There was only one no vote -John Eichelberger (R., Blair) - in the Senate. Seven House Republicans voted no: Scott Hutchison and Daryl Metcalfe both of Butler County, Minority Leader Sam Smith of Jefferson County, Jess Stairs of Fayette County, Mike Fleck and Jerry Stern of Blair and Steve Cappelli of Lycoming County. Two of the bill's most vigorous opponents, House Republicans Art Hershey of Chester County and Bob Bastian of Somerset County left the Capitol before the vote.
The new standards apply to anyone selling more than 60 dogs in a year or anyone selling a dog to a pet shop or wholesaler. Officials say that's roughly 650 of the 2,750 licensed kennels in the state.
Rescue groups are concerned that changes will not come fast enough for tens of thousands of dogs trapped in cramped cages across the state. The law gives breeders one year to comply and they can seek a waiver for up to three years if they have no convictions on dog law violations and can provide evidence of substantial kennel improvements.
But one provision takes effect immediately: only a veterinarian may now euthanize a dog.
The shooting of 80 dogs at a Berks County kennel in August by a breeder who was ordered to provide vet care for flea bites is widely believed to have propelled the bill to quick passage this fall.