Two Philadelphia area lawmakers took a stand for animals today,offering several new bills and support for others that have stalled in the legislature.
State Sens. Mike Stack and Daylin Leach today joined area animal protection advocates to call for legislative action on bills aimed at banning events, such as live pigeon shoots and so-called "canned hunts," products, and procedures that are inhumane to animals.
"With the General Assembly headed into the budget season, we don't want to see these important efforts trampled in the rush," said Stack at a news conference at the Montgomer County SPCA. "Indifference to the plight of animals is morally indistinguishable from active participation in these barbaric practices."
"One of the measures of any society is how it treats the defenseless and powerless," Leach said. "And in our case that can certainly mean our policies toward wildlife and companion animals."
Among the bills are: SB 1176, introduced by Stack, which bars landlords from requiring tenants to have their pets debarked or declawed. Both procedures take away natural interactions with the animal's environment and cause physical and psychological complications.
It also prohibits landlords from refusing occupancy to a potential tenant with pets that are not declawed or devocalized. The intent is to protect tenants from being forced to choose between securing housing for their families and subjecting their pets to unnecessary, costly and life-altering medical procedure. The bill would impose a civil penalty of $1,000 for any person found in violation of these provisions.
"No one should have to choose between the health and safety of their pet and their ability to find decent, affordable housing," he said. "More importantly, no one should be allowed to use a tenant's need for housing to force them to do something to their pet that is proven to be unpredictable and, often, unhealthy."
The bill is modeled after a California law passed in 2012.
A second bill, introduced by Leach, would prevent the use of bullhooks, elephant training devices that pierce the animal's skin to force it to comply with commands.
"Cruelty can be very effective at forcing any large animal to behave in certain way," Leach said. "That's not entertainment. It's deception to use pain as an animal training technique and then feed the public the image of a happy, contented elephant."
Leach and Stack called for the passage of other animal protection bills including:
Senate Bill 340 – Ban on Possession of Shark Fin Products
Shark fins are very valuable for use in shark fin soup. The practice of shark finning, however, is brutal and wasteful and is contributing significantly to the extinction of an important ocean predator.
Sharks are in danger of extinction and their decline poses a real threat to our ocean ecosystem. Shark finning consists of catching a shark, cutting off its fin and or tail and then dumping the animal back in the water to starve or suffocate.
While shark finning is illegal under federal law, the possession of shark fins is not. This legislation will ban the sale, possession or distribution of shark fins. All states on the West Coast and Hawaii have already banned this unsustainable practice, and several east coast states are currently poised to act.
Senate Bill 542 – Ban on "Canned Hunting" Facilities
Canned hunting facilities allow hunters to shoot certain animals in an enclosed area, usually for a fee. Since there are few restrictions regarding this practice, some of the animals that end up at these hunting facilities are domesticated animals obtained from zoos. The bill amends Section 2307 of the Game Code (related to the unlawful taking or possession of game or wildlife) to make hunting in such a manner, or providing the animals for hunting a third degree misdemeanor.
Senate Bill 510 – Ban on Live Pigeon Shoots
The legislation, which has languished in the General Assembly, would prohibit the use of live animals or fowl for target trap shoots and block shoots. A trap shoot involves immediately launching a moving target and a block shoot involves a tethered or stationary target. The bill would make it a summary offense to willfully organize, operate or conduct one of these shoots.
This legislation exempts all hunting or other activities authorized or permitted under the Game Code and it protects legitimate hunting activities but will also prevent the use of live animals or fowl for purely target practice activities. The bill currently in the Judiciary Committee, has the support of a majority of the Senate, including Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware).