Pet Tales: Many fear pending state bill could put family pets at risk

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When a beagle in Bristol, Bucks County, was attacked by a pit bull, state Rep. John Galloway, D-Bucks County, took action. In May, he held a news conference and announced that he was introducing legislation that would protect dogs and people by giving local officials more power to crack down on dangerous dogs.

The beagle was being walked by a 5-year-old girl and her uncle. The pit bull was out of its own yard when it attacked.

Mr. Galloway's news release and his proposed House Bill 2553 never mention the words "breed bans" or "breed specific legislation." But members of dog clubs and organizations, including the American Kennel Club, and dog lovers on e-mail lists, believe his proposed law would allow officials to put severe restrictions on specific breeds or even ban them from their towns.

Currently, Pennsylvania state laws prohibit local ordinances that target dogs by breed, and for good reason. There are many state and local laws that can be enforced, such as those that prohibit dogs from running at large. The owners of dogs that attack people or animals have the right to a court hearing, and local and state courts can take action against irresponsible owners, including requiring fences and hefty insurance premiums or, in severe cases, seizing and euthanizing the dog.

Under the harshest breed specific laws in other states, dogs of certain breeds have been seized from their owners and killed even though the dog broke no law. The usual target is pit bulls or breeds that look somewhat like a pit bull, including American Staffordshire terriers, bull terriers and American bulldogs. Other targeted breeds have included German shepherd dogs, Doberman pinschers, Akitas and chow chows.

Presumably well-meaning officials, faced with a spate of attacks by a pit bull or a Dobe, attempt to solve the problem by banning the entire breed. Your pit bull or Dobe is a loving pet that has never bitten anyone, but under breed specific legislation, your dog is banned or subjected to strict and expensive requirements.

The Pennsylvania Legislature left for summer recess before Mr. Galloway's bill came up for a vote. I've made repeated calls to his Harrisburg and Bucks County offices in the last two months, to ask him about his concerns and his proposed bill, but he has not returned my phone calls.

While the Legislature is in recess, nothing can happen on this or any other bill until the fall when lawmakers return to Harrisburg.

I'd like to ask him how the beagle is doing, though there are pictures on Mr. Galloway's Web site and the dog and the little girl appear to be fine.

The AKC, which tracks legislation that affects dogs, suggests that concerned dog owners contact Pennsylvania lawmakers to tell them this proposed law is a bad idea. The AKC release said the proposal is in the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee.

Go to www.legis.state.pa.us to get telephone and e-mail contact information for state elected officials, including Mr. Galloway.

Who wouldn't like to see their pet become a calendar girl or boy?

Enter your cat, dog, horse, rabbit, bird or any other animal in the Cutest Critters Calendar Contest, and your beloved pet could land on the cover of the 2009 Western Pennsylvania Humane Society calender. Twelve other animals will be pet of the month.

There is no charge to enter the contest. Photos are entered online by going to www.wpahumane.com, or they can be dropped off at the North Shore shelter, 1101 Western Ave. The public picks the winner by going to that Web site and "voting" for their favorite animal.

Voting is not free. Each vote for a cute pet costs $1, with proceeds going to help the shelter animals that need homes.

On the contest page, you can click on "see the entries and vote!" The last time I checked, there were already 432 entries, ranked in order of how many votes were received. No. 1 was a cat named Cindy, and No. 2 was a beige dog named Rocky.

As expected, most of the entries are dogs and cats, but No. 53 was a turtle named Chekhov and No. 119 was a parrot named Sterling.

Your votes can change those rankings. Voting instructions are on the Web site. You need a credit card to submit your $1 vote. At the top of the voting page is a "search" box where you can enter the name of the pet or the name of the owner you want to vote for. Don't know any of the contestants? You can scroll through 21 pages of entries.

Voting continues through Sept. 30.

The top 13 vote-getters will each get a private photo session with a professional photographer. That's the picture that will be used in the calendar.

Orders are being taken online for the calendars, which are $12.84. For a total of $17.64, you can have the calendar shipped.


Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.


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