Rescuing Libre: How One Puppy Inspired New Animal Cruelty Legislation
Libre, a Boston Terrier puppy found on the brink of death after being left in a cage for months on a farm near Lancaster, Pa., made headlines last year with his miraculous recovery. His story also caught the attention of a state senator who introduced a law mandating stricter penalties for animal cruelty in Pennsylvania.
Today, Libre is happy and healthy, making appearances to urge the passage of Libre’s Law, the proposed state legislation named after him.
Janine Guido of Speranza Animal Rescue helped ensured Libre got the veterinary care he desperately needed when he was found and ultimately adopted him. Libre, who is now one year old, is thriving in his new life. “He’s doing fantastic,” says Guido. “Libre is completely healthy and happy. He’s your typically crazy puppy.”
Libre has attended rallies in Harrisburg to support the bill and readily poses for the cameras, says Guido. The dog seems to know he has an important role to play in getting the proposed law passed. “It’s so funny—he puts his game face on,” Guido notes. “He’s a good spokesdog.”
“People just connect with Libre,” adds Kristen Tullo, the Pennsylvania state director for the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), which is lobbying to get Libre’s Law passed. “He’s touched the hearts of so many people.”
Saved from Death
Produce truck driver Dextin Orme rescued Libre from certain death on July 4, 2016 after seeing the four-month-old puppy’s condition seriously deteriorate over a period of weeks while caged outdoors on an Amish farm in Quarryville Pa. The puppy was emaciated, dehydrated and had a severe skin infection that became septic.
Susan Martin, director of Lancaster County SPCA, decided not to pursue charges against the owner of the farm. Martin stepped down from her position on Nov. 4 after she and the Lancaster County District Attorney blamed each other for how Libre’s case was handled, according to Lancaster Online. The district attorney filed a summary citation against the farm owner for the maximum allowable punishment allowed at the time.
The farmer was fined just $900 for his treatment of Lire, says Guido, an amount she calls “a slap on the wrist.”
Fines for severe animal abuse in Pennsylvania are “the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket,” adds Tullo.
Libre’s Law, Reintroduced
Senator Richard Alloway II reintroduced Libre’s Law as Senate Bill 298 on Feb. 2. The Pennsylvania Senate approved Libre’s Law in 2016 as part of a package of animal protection measures, but the bill didn’t reach a final vote in the state House of Representatives.
Libre’s Law would make it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal and violators could be found guilty of a third-degree felony on a first offense. Pennsylvania is one of only three states without the first offense felony classification for animal torture (the other two states are Mississippi and Iowa).
Currently, most animal cruelty crimes in Pennsylvania are categorized as a summary offense misdemeanor, “which puts animal cruelty, no matter how wanton, in the same category with the most minor of crimes such as loitering and traffic violations like speeding,” according to a fact sheet published by Alloway’s office and the HSUS.
Libre’s Law would create a new offense of aggravated cruelty to animals and establish tougher penalties for the worst crimes committed against animals. It would also give prosecutors more discretion depending on the level of injury. The law would not apply to activities that are part of “normal agricultural operations.”
How You Can Help
Why is Libre’s Law so important? The HSUS points out that animal cruelty is a significant social issue that has implications for both animals and humans. Research shows animal cruelty is the most reliable predictor of future violence against humans. Stronger penalties for animal cruelty give the criminal justice system the opportunity to identify potentially dangerous individuals and intervene, which will help reduce violence committed against animals and people, according to the HSUS.
Tullo says animal lovers can take a number of actions to help get Libre’s Law passed:
- Local residents can let their state senator and district representative know Libre’s Law is important by scheduling a meeting at their district office, asking them to co-sponsor the bill or thank them if they are already co-sponsoring the bill. Learn more about the bill and its co-sponsors here.
- Ask your state representative to support the bill and call a vote on SB 298 once it reaches the House. The state Senate approved Libre’s Law in 2016 and is likely to again this year.
- Attend one of HSUS’s Humane Lobby Days on April 24 to support measures to protect animals in Pennsylvania and other states around the country. Find out if your state has a Lobby Day scheduled here.
Images: courtesy Jennifer MacNeill
Samantha Drake is a freelance writer & editor in the Philadelphia area who writes about pets, business & general interest topics.