Libre is a happy and playful Boston terrier “who gives kisses to strangers,” says the woman who rescued him and authorized the life-saving veterinary treatment that ultimately cost $27,000.
Libre’s name was invoked last week by Gov. Tom Wolf, who issued a news release telling everyone that it is now illegal to leave a dog tethered outside for more than 30 minutes when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
I’ve never seen that kind of press release from a governor. He reminded people that Libre’s Law and other legislation that he signed this summer have stiffer penalties for animal abuse, tethering restrictions for dogs and more protections for horses.
As cameras whirred and clicked in June, Libre slathered Mr. Wolf’s face with licks and dog kisses as he signed the measure.
“The governor was a good sport about it,” said Janine Guido, who brought Libre into her Speranza Animal Rescue in Mechanicsburg. “Libre knows he is famous. ... He poses when he sees cameras.”
For years animal rights and animal welfare activists have lobbied for stronger penalties for cruelty and neglect cases. For years those kinds of bills weren’t passed.
Although Libre’s face and name helped this time, the effort also required lots of work and lobbying from shelters and rescues, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Action Pittsburgh and Humane PA PAC, which has 44,000 members.
HSUS had a recent town hall meeting at the Animal Friends shelter in Ohio Township, and representatives had lots of tips on how animal lovers can become citizen lobbyists, helping to convince state and federal lawmakers to pass laws that help animals.
Libre’s Law can do only so much. It can’t punish the Amish farmer who left the dog to die in a barn in Lancaster County.
“He got a slap on the wrist. Maybe a fine of a couple hundred dollars,” Ms. Guido said.
A delivery driver raised the initial alarm, on July 4, 2016, about a tiny, almost lifeless puppy lying in a cage covered with bloody sores and skin lesions.
“The farmer told authorities, ‘Take it. It’s sick. I threw it in the pen to die.’ We thought the puppy was 8 weeks old because he only weighed 7 pounds,” Ms. Guido said. “Then we learned he was 4 months old.”
Euthanasia was discussed because the puppy “was literally near death,” she said. He was severely underweight and dehydrated, had demodectic mange, and was septic because of skin infections.
His condition was “touch and go” many times during his 30-day hospital stay, she said. “But he has never been anything other than a sweetheart. He has heart and courage and determination.”
Veterinary bills totaled $27,000, all paid by animal lovers’ donations.
Ms. Guido, who adopted Libre, frequently takes him to her shelter “because people ask to meet him and he enjoys the attention.”
Libre will be 2 years old on Feb. 22 and now weighs 27 pounds. His hobbies include going to classes for agility and flyball.
Ms. Guido, 32, operates the rescue on a portion of her family’s horse farm. There are currently about 50 dogs there and another 20-30 in foster homes. Speranza also takes in horses, cows, pigs and goats.
How to lobby
HSUS brought its lobbyist, Ray C. Afflerback of Red Lion, to the town hall at Animal Friends. The former state legislator described his role as a public policy adviser and advocate. His firm, The Afflerback Group, has other clients that advocate for senior citizens. He gave these tips:
• Get to know your state and federal lawmakers and their staffs. Meet them in person or in their offices. Do your homework by reading their official websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Find state lawmakers at palegis.us and Google “Who is my U.S. congressman?”
• Always be polite and professional. “You do not get anywhere by badgering anyone.”
• Thank them for things they have done before asking them to support something you want.
• Emails are fine, but handwritten letters get more attention “because they hardly ever get those.”
At the state level, HSUS, Human Action Pittsburgh and other organizations are especially interested in three proposed laws:
• Senate Bill 636, which allows police, public safety professionals or humane officers to remove a dog or cat from a car that is hot enough to threaten the animal’s life.
• Senate Bill 612 to end live pigeon shoots.
• Senate Bill 248, which prohibits traveling wild and exotic animal acts.
Save this internet address for PA Humane to see the current status of proposed animal legislation: https://humane-pa.org/current-legislation-2/.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com, 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.