Many suffer when animals suffer
When someone who owns animals neglects his responsibility to care for them, the impact is not just on those blameless creatures but on the people who assume that duty, and get the bill.
In January, near Harrisburg, authorities recently seized 20 Morgan horses for which care has cost thousands of dollars.
Such stories are common. In Montgomery County nearly a decade ago, authorities seized more than 100 dogs and cats from a house and the owner, who refused to relinquish ownership of the animals, was charged with abuse. By the time that case wound its way through the appellate courts, the shelter that cared for the animals while awaiting resolution of the case, had spent about $267,000.
Here in Bradford County, The Review has reported that Humane Officer Lara Hawbaker, in one year, received more than 350 calls related to possible animal cruelty. We reported that in many of those cases the animals had to be seized and taken into the Bradford County Humane Shelter, some, so extreme, they resulted in court cases.
Last week the state House adopted a bill to transfer responsibility for those costs from shelters to the animals' owners.
Owners charged with neglect and abuse have property rights covering their animals and due process rights relative to the criminal charges.
Under the bill, a shelter or other entity caring for seized animals could petition a local court to have the alleged abuser pay for the care of the animals, up to $15 per animal per day. The bill would require an immediate hearing, at which the shelter would be required to produce evidence of abuse and detailed bills for care. Results of that hearing could not be used as evidence in the criminal proceeding.
If the Senate passes the bill, Pennsylvania would join 25 states with similar laws.
The Senate should pass the bill. It would place the duty of care with animals' owners, preserve scant shelter resources for their other important work in the community, and serve as a deterrent against abuse.