Wolf and Libre

Libre shows his enthusiastic support for the new law in a photo opportunity with Gov. Tom Wolf in June 2018.

Legislation sparked by an ailing puppy from Lancaster County has strengthened Pennsylvania’s animal welfare laws to the point that two national organizations have taken notice.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund both have reported that Act 10 of 2017 — an animal abuse overhaul package signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last June — has raised Pennsylvania’s standings in a nationwide tally of legal protections for animals.

The package of bills included Libre's Law, named after a dog whose story of mistreatment and miraculous recovery helped spur a broader discussion of animal protection.

Libre, a Boston terrier suffering from extreme neglect, was rescued in July 2016 from a farm near Quarryville. The puppy’s struggle to survive drew national attention — and motivated a new push for laws protecting animals in the state.

Key components of Pennsylvania’s new legislation include increased penalties for animal abuse, improved tethering conditions for outside dogs, additional protections for horses, provisions requiring convicted animal abusers to forfeit abused animals to a shelter, and civil immunity from lawsuits for licensed doctors of veterinary medicine, technicians and assistants who report animal cruelty to authorities.

Improved standings

The Animal Legal Defense Fund credited the new laws when it listed Pennsylvania as the "most-improved state" in 2017 in its annual report, “Best and Worst States for Animal Protection Laws.”

The report was issued Jan. 18.

The Keystone State jumped 20 places, from 44 to 24, on the list ranking the animal protection laws of all 50 states.

Pennsylvania moved from number 18 to 15 on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane State rankings, which was issued on Jan. 3.

Animals are protected by a combination of state and local laws, which vary widely in terms of strength, according to a statement from the governor’s office. Act 10 of 2017 was the first significant strengthening of Pennsylvania's animal protection statutes in nearly 30 years.

With the law’s passage, Wolf said, “we began to hold our pet and animal owners to a higher standard of humanity.”