An Opinion by State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh
Early in the month, pet owners like myself filled social media feeds with photos of their furry family members to mark “National Pet Day,” leaving no doubt how many Americans adore cats and dogs alike, considering animals as not just and addition to, but also an extension of, their human family. In my case, it was ahead of a news conference at my district office in Lehigh County, one intended to provide updates on several key pieces of legislation aimed at curbing animal cruelty and neglect.
While these pieces of legislation — H.B. 1299, H.B. 526 , and H.B. 459 — have enormous bipartisan support (at least on the surface), they remain destined to die in committee before ever coming before the entire House for consideration. The resulting consequences are: continued suffering for animals; an underfunded/understaffed Bureau of Dog Enforcement program that faces continuing funding adversity, operating as best as it can; convicted animal abusers still owning, possessing, controlling or working with animals; irresponsible breeders/puppy mills freely continuing their inhumane breeding practices and treatment of animals; no recourse or protections for consumers who find themselves facing unknown financial burdens due to poor veterinary care and other issues impacting animals born from a severely tragic and brutal industry.
Rather than move on legislation that clearly makes sense, has support, and would bring an end to the horrors associated with over breeding, neglect and cruelty found at puppy mills across the commonwealth, some of my colleagues would instead sit idle and do nothing. I feel we can, and should, be doing better.
My stance on this issue has not changed, nor has my call to move these bills in the coming weeks and days, echoed by animal-rights activist Grace Kelly Herbert and Director of the Center for Animal Health and Welfare Kelly Bauer, who joined me during last week’s news conference. I’ve seen firsthand much of the brutal realities of puppy mills and animal cruelty — from malnourishment and neglect to obvious signs of abuse in the form of cigarette scars – from my personal experiences fostering for rescues, tragically similar to what Herbert and Bauer recounted as they joined me in the call for action last week.
It’s time for stepping it up and doing more than just smiling and posing for pictures while proclaiming to be against animal cruelty. It’s time to insist this legislative body provide more than “lip service” to the horrors occurring to animals across the commonwealth. I call on my colleagues in Harrisburg to become accountable for their collective inaction on the above-mentioned bills and move these bills forward, sending them from committee to the House floor. I also encourage residents to begin reaching out to their state representatives and senators, inquiring why these bills aren’t coming out of committee. It’s time for the horrendous animal cruelty and the inhumane realities of breading in Pennsylvania end. It’s time to give a voice to the voiceless.
State Rep. Jeanne McNeill was first elected to represent the 133rd State House District in Lehigh County in 2017. She currently serves as the Vice-Chairwoman of the Northeast Delegation.