A bill that would ban non-veterinarians from performing certain surgical procedures on dogs sailed through the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee today on a unanimous vote.

The bill, which was amended, now goes to the Senate Appropriations committee before being considered by the full Senate.

The bill (HB 39) would make it illegal for untrained individuals to perform Cesarean sections, debarking, ear cropping and tail docking (when the dog is over five days old). The legislation, sponsored by House Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks), was the result of mounting evidence that some unscrupulous dog breeders performed these procedures with disfiguring and painful results. It was approved unanimously by the House in March.

Among the changes approved by the committee was the removal of language allowing state dog wardens to enforce cruelty laws in counties where there is no humane officer. There are two counties - Forest and Jefferson - without humane officers to enforce cruelty laws. Dog wardens currently enforce state dog law - primarily addressing kennel conditions - under the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.

"There was concern about dog wardens crossing over to enforcing the crimes code and giving them too much authority," said Kristin Crawford, executive director of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. "

Spokesman Chris Ryder, said the bureau opposed the amendment, but said they were confident that working with the Pennsylvania State Police and humane officers in neighboring counties that "we have arrangements to meet the needs of dogs in kennels where potential cruelty charges exist."

Bill Andring, counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, said Caltagirone would have preferred that the dog warden language remain but still supports the overall legislation.

Another amendment, advocated by the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, clarifies that a vet may perform a tail docking between the period of 5 days of age and 12 weeks of age "if surgically removing the tail is medically indicated because of injury."

An amendment, promoted by the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, that would have allowed untrained individuals to perform ear cropping with a vet present was withdrawn after objections by the PVMA, which argued only a trained vet is qualified to perform a surgical procedure such as an ear cropping.

If passed by the full Senate, the legislation would have to go back to the House for final approval. Although Andring was optimistic about final passage this month, there are only three weeks left before the General Assembly breaks for the summer.

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