McNeill: ‘It’s time to give a voice to the voiceless’

Several animal advocacy bills awaiting action as budget season enters second week

As budget talks continue in Harrisburg, state Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, said she is hopeful several pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening animal protection laws will find passage.

“Yesterday, I joined colleagues to support legislation [H.B. 526] that would end the financial deficit currently limiting the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement’s ability to operate effectively,” McNeill said. “There is no doubt of the growing need to ‘give a voice to the voiceless’ and provide the tools and resources needed to ensure animals no longer suffer or go through unimaginable anguish and pain. It’s our duty as legislators to serve all our constituents, human or not.”

McNeill explained that she is in support of H.B. 526 because it would again return the department to self-solvency with operating costs covered by licenses, unlike last year when taxpayers were responsible for an additional $1.2 million to keep the department operating. This year, it’s estimated that cost will rise to $1.5 million.   

McNeill, who has long-been an advocate for animals, recently joined with state Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, R-Montgomery, to introduce “Victoria’s Law” bi-partisan legislation that would drive the Pennsylvania pet market toward more humane sources like shelters, rescues and responsible breeders; stop the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores; and protect consumers from misleading sales tactics.

“As someone who has been fostering for local animal rescues, I have seen the horrors that result from inhumane conditions propagated by the puppy mill industry here in Pennsylvania,” McNeill said. “House Bill 1299 holds irresponsible breeders accountable and also provides protections for consumers who, sadly, find themselves facing unknown financial burdens due to the overbreeding and poor veterinary care impacting animals born from this severely tragic and brutal industry.”

McNeill’s second piece of legislation, H.B. 459, would require all convicted animal abusers to be banned from owning, possessing, controlling or working with animals for at least two years. Additionally, the legislation would mandate that abusers participate in violence-prevention counseling and, in the case of failure to attend counseling or trying to have an animal, the ban would be increased, and counseling required again. 

“I’m hopeful, that in the days, even weeks to come, my colleagues will recognize the importance in passing these legislative items and advance them for a vote,” McNeill said. “As there is no reason to do nothing, when it’s so clear we can, and should, do something.”