The Lead

State lawmakers propose legislative reforms for Pa. dog law

By: - April 6, 2023 7:16 am
State Sen. Carolyn T. Comitta, D-Chester, attends a Senate Education Committee Hearing held at the Pennsylvania Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

State Sen. Carolyn T. Comitta, D-Chester, attends a Senate Education Committee Hearing held at the Pennsylvania Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

Two state lawmakers are proposing a package of legislative reforms that they say will better protect animals across the commonwealth by increasing oversight of kennels, breeders, and testing facilities.

The reforms, which are part of a three-pronged, companion proposal by state Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, and Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, mirror a similar legislative package enacted in Virginia last year. 

The lawmakers said that their proposals build on the Virginia laws with “commonsense improvements,” including whistleblower protections and an expansion of Pennsylvania’s Dog Law protections that would allow state entities to revoke the license of kennel operators who violate federal law.

“Pennsylvania can do much better in protecting animals being bred and used for research in Animal Testing Laboratories and from kennels and dealers who face serious or multiple citations under the Animal Welfare Act,” Comitta said in a memo seeking legislative support. 

The first bill, dubbed a “beagle bill,” would require individuals and kennels selling dogs and cats for research purposes to keep records of those sales, submitting an annual report to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The department would then be required to submit annual reports to the state Legislature. 

The bill would also require breeders to offer dogs and cats that are no longer needed for adoption, prohibit breeders and kennels who have “certain serious or numerous citations” of the Animal Welfare Act from selling dogs and cats, and establish third-degree misdemeanor penalties. 

Since 2014, states such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia have all enacted their own beagle bills to better protect animals bred and used for research purposes.

The second bill, lawmakers said, would amend the commonwealth’s Dog Law with similar provisions, prohibiting animal sales from breeders and kennels who have violated state or federal animal protection laws.

The third bill would amend Title 18, of the state’s Cruelty to Animals statute, to include whistleblower protection to employees who report violations of state and federal animal welfare laws. It would also extend existing protections to animals “bred for research and to animals possessed by testing labs not actively involved in bona fide scientific or medical research.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.