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1555 Highlands Drive
Suite 110
Lititz, PA 17543
Phone:  (717) 626-1776
FAX:  (717) 626-4234

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51A East Wing
PO Box 202097
Harrisburg PA 17120-2097
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Our Communities Don’t Have to Tolerate Animal Abuse
By Rep. Steven Mentzer (R-Lititz)

Recent incidents of cruelty to animals in our area have again raised the questions: Are penalties too lenient for animal cruelty crimes and how should we deal with people in a civilized society who commit such heinous acts?

Last month, an Ephrata man plead guilty to two counts of animal cruelty after beating a horse that collapsed while pulling an overloaded cart of produce. A witness caught the horrific event on a smart phone – while the horse lay on its side gasping for breath, the owner kicked the horse in the abdomen and punched it in the head. It was later euthanized.

In July, a puppy (that has since been named Libre) had essentially been left to die from sepsis and mange on a southern Lancaster County farm when it was discovered by a man who was at the farm on business. The man then convinced the owner to turn the dog over to him for medical care.

And most recently, three men - Taylor James Geib, 21, of the first block of N. Colebrook Road, Manheim, Austin Mathew Garner, 21 of the 2000 block of Mountain Road, Manheim, and a17-year-old, allegedly taped illegal explosives to a large turtle’s shell to blow it up and kill it.

When law enforcement arrived at the scene, officers found a small crater and the remains of a large turtle in the same area.

What these very disturbing cases all have in common is that these heinous acts unite all people with common decency in outrage and disgust – not only the acts themselves, but the lenient penalties that are doled out for these offenses.

However, the owner of the farm where Libre was found, was charged with a summary offense, the maximum under current law. The man who was captured beating the horse on the smartphone video, 20-year-old Marvin Sensenig of Ephrata, plead guilty to animal cruelty and paid about $750 in fines.

As for the turtle, according to Pennsylvania law, animal cruelty covers domesticated animals. Turtles are not considered domesticated.

What these cases make clear is that in Pennsylvania we have serious inconsistencies in animal cruelty cases – both with the investigations of the incidents and the inadequate consequences for offenders.

One positive step out of these cases is that Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman has announced that police departments and, not animal control officers, will now handle animal cruelty investigations in Lancaster County.

As far as increasing penalties, my colleague, Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Upper Leacock), has introduced legislation to increase the minimum fine from $50 to $250 for an animal cruelty summary offense. Sen. Richard Alloway II (R-Franklin County) has said he would work on legislation to increase penalties for animal cruelty. And Rep. Frank Farry (R-Delaware) has introduced legislation that would prohibit the confinement of a dog or cat in an unattended motor vehicle in a manner that would endanger the health and well-being of the animal. This violation would be a summary offense.

Also, Farry’s legislation would give authority to a police officer, public safety professional or humane officer to remove the dog or cat from the unattended motor vehicle if the officer believes the dog or cat is suffering and endangered after a reasonable search for the owner or operator of the vehicle. The officer who removes a cat or dog from an unattended vehicle would not be held liable for any damages.

The Legislature is stepping up to increase penalties for animal abuse just as our local district attorney has. We need to send a clear message that a civil society will not tolerate people who commit these types of despicable acts.

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