Pet Tales: Humane Action Pittsburgh tackles many issues

It fights for better treatment for animals, including harsher punishment for people who abuse them, and it takes its battles to federal and state legislators and Pittsburgh City Council.

Humane Action Pittsburgh is 2 years old now, and members want to amp up their campaigns.

“We teach people how to lobby,” said president and founder Brian Bonsteel, a dentist who practices in Shadyside and lives in McCandless.

HAP members show people how to write to state and local lawmakers to tell them to pass laws that help pets, homeless animals and wildlife.

“This is a very hot political climate right now,” Mr. Bonsteel said, and that might explain a better-than-average turnout at a Humane Action Pittsburgh meeting on Tuesday at the new Homewood shelter of Animal Rescue League/​Western PA Humane Society.

More than 40 animal lovers attended, and many said it was their first time at an HAP meeting. Mr. Bonsteel asked each of them to talk about themselves. Attendees included teachers and nurses, and many had volunteered at local animal shelters and rescue organizations for dogs, cats and rabbits.

“Brian is my dentist,” several noted.

The warm and welcoming atmosphere was nicely enhanced by the aroma of Mario’s vegan chili, which was dished out — along with the recipe — to everyone who came to the meeting. Ingredients include three kinds of beans — dark red kidney, black and cannellini — along with tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, onions and fresh garlic. The only weird ingredient was 12-16 ounces of soy chorizo seitan, which is apparently a meatless version of Mexican sausage.

I’m told they often have vegan food at these meetings, so there’s another thing to look forward to.

A 2017 goal is to attract more members for $50 a year. Expenses have been about $5,000 each year, Mr. Bonsteel said.

Legislation that HAP has advocated includes stiffer penalties for animal abusers and a state ban on live pigeon shoots. Members would like to extend an anti-puppy mill bill to Allegheny County. Pittsburgh City Council earlier approved an ordinance that prohibits selling dogs in pet stores that come from unlicensed commercial breeders.

Last year, Libre’s Law unanimously passed the state Senate. Named for a Boston terrier puppy that was found sick and emaciated at a Lancaster county farm, the bill would make it a third-degree felony to seriously injure a domestic animal or zoo animals.

As House Bill 869, Libre’s Law never made it to the floor, Mr. Bonsteel said, because Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, would not let it come up for a vote. Pennsylvania is one of only three states that do not have felony-level anti-cruelty laws, Mr. Bonsteel said.

Humane Action Pittsburgh members gave out contact information for Mr. Turzai and also U.S. senators — Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey. Go to to find contact information for your Pennsylvania senators and House members.

Ashleigh Deemer of Beechview, Democratic candidate for the District 4 seat on Pittsburgh City Council, spoke at the meeting.

“Animals are very near and dear to my heart,” said Ms. Deemer, who also noted that she has not eaten meat for 16 years and has two rescue animals, a dog named Nina and a cat named Simon.

“We know people are really fed up after the November election, but we do not know who will show up in May” for local primary elections, she said. “If elected I would love to work with Humane Action Pittsburgh.”

For the past six years, Ms. Deemer has been chief of staff for City Council member Natalia Rudiak, who is not seeking re-election.

The new shelter at 6926 Hamilton Ave., Homewood, is now the regular meeting place of Humane Action Pittsburgh. Meetings are scheduled for March 28, May 9, June 20, Aug. 1, Sept. 12, Oct. 24 and Dec. 5. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m., but pre-meeting eating and socializing start at 6 p.m.

Donations or membership requests can be mailed to Humane Action Pittsburgh, 1432 Davis Ave., Pittsburgh 15212. HAP also has a website,, and a Facebook page.

Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-263-3064.