A local animal rights advocate is fed up with Pennsylvania’s reputation for being light on animal cruelty.
“It’s an embarrassment,” says Rebecca Lyttle, a Lancaster attorney. “Pennsylvania is behind the times, and our sister states have more laws — and better laws — than we do.”
Lyttle — who has been outraged over recent reports involving cruelty to dogs, horses and even a wild turtle — approached state Senator Rich Alloway, a vocal supporter of stronger cruelty laws, with her concerns.
“Being known as the puppy mill capital of the world is a huge embarrassment for us,” Lyttle said. “I love Lancaster County, and I don’t like to see this blemish on us — the widespread belief that we don’t care about our animals.”
In September, she asked Alloway to form a statewide task force to explore ways to strengthen the laws. On Monday, Republican Senators Alloway and John Rafferty announced plans to do just that.
The senators called for a resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to establish an Animal Abuse Prevention Task Force.
The task force’s findings, Rafferty said at a press conference, “will enable the Legislature to move toward implementing policies which will ultimately lead to the better protection of animals in our state.”
Lyttle, who has fostered dogs for local rescue groups for 15 years, said she’s frustrated with the many recent cases of animal cruelty that have appeared in the news — from Libre, a dying puppy rescued from a Quarryville farm, to a horse that was beaten in Ephrata after failing to pull a heavy load up a hill.
RELATED: Complete coverage of Libre’s story
She’s furious that three men who blew up a turtle with M-80 firecrackers in Penn Township weren’t charged with cruelty because Pennsylvania laws don’t apply to wild animals.
“And more and more people are applying to open puppy mills — I mean kennels — in Lancaster County,” she complained. “We need better laws in Pennsylvania to protect our animals.”
Lyttle said the task force, if enacted, would include representatives from both parties, as well as animal rescues and law enforcement. She hopes to see a veterinarian in the group, she added, as well as a kennel owner.
“We need both sides of the story,” she said. “I’m sure there are good kennels out there, and we need to hear from the other side … how we can work together to make this work.”
She expects the task force to be formed in 2017 and have 18 months to present its findings to the Senate.
“I just think this would be something to give people hope — that something is going to get done and animals are going to be protected,” Lyttle said.
She also hopes to see practical, enforceable laws come out of its report.
For instance, Lyttle said, anyone convicted of animal cruelty should lose all animals in their possession and be banned from ever owning animals again.
She would like to see people barred from tethering dogs outside around the clock and in all kinds of weather, and she thinks dog owners should be required to microchip their pets to cut down on the number of strays.
“There is a whole list of laws we want to look into, and how they got them passed in other states,” Lyttle said.
Writen by Tom Knapp|Staff Writer at Lancaster Online