WEST CHESTER – State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) was recently named Humane Senator of the Year by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Humane Society for his successful effort to ban animal gas chambers in Pennsylvania.
In 2012, Pennsylvania passed Act 182, banning the use of carbon monoxide chambers at animal shelters, a method considered inhumane for animals and dangerous for shelter personnel.
Senator Dinniman led approval of the bill through meetings with fellow lawmakers and by building public support through events such as his 2011 “Daniel’s Law” rally, which attracted more than 400 residents and their pets to the Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern. The bill was named for Daniel, a beagle that survived an Alabama gas chamber, attended the rally with his new family, and remains a living symbol against inhumane forms of euthanasia.
Animal organizations in Chester County joined in applauding the Pennsylvania Humane Society’s selection of Dinniman.
“It is very satisfying to see Sen. Dinniman recognized for his work on behalf of our pets in Chester County and the humane treatment of animals statewide,” said Conrad Muhly, president of the Chester County SPCA. “No one deserves the award more than Senator Dinniman. Not only for his work banning animal gas chambers, but Senator Dinniman consistently supports organizations such as ours and recognizes that our pets are part of our families that deserve to be free from cruel, inhumane treatment.”
Dinniman said while receiving the award is personally satisfying, more work needs to be done on behalf of Pennsylvania’s animals and he wants to use the occasion to give attention to two more bills he will soon introduce.
Dinniman wants to make it easier for therapy dogs and their handlers to get to the nursing homes, hospices and even emergency situations where they provide much-needed comfort and companionship to those in need.
He willintroduce a bill to permit therapy dogs and their handlers onto buses, trains and any other forms of public transportation -- a right already provided to seeing-eye dogs and canines that assist people with other physical handicaps.
Dinniman said due to the great benefits therapy dogs provide and their increased use, Pennsylvania’s laws should facilitate, not limit, the ability of therapy dogs and their handlers to get to different facilities.
“Federal and state laws have for years correctly given special privileges to guide dogs due to the important role they play especially within the disability community, and these laws have been very positive,” Dinniman said. “So it’s time that we extend the same special privileges to another class of dogs that also help people, even if it’s a slightly different population and in a slightly different way.”
Tredyffrin resident Cheryl Bittner has a therapy dog, Tucker, which she has taken to the Coatesville VA Medical Center twice a month for the last five years. Bittner and Tucker also visit Berwyn’s Timothy School for children with autism and the Wayne Nursing Center twice a month.
“Allowing therapy dogs on public transportation in Pennsylvania would make it possible for more handlers to take their dogs to visit urban locations,” Bittner said. “It would expand the opportunities for those in hospitals and hospices, retirement and nursing homes and schools to experience the comfort and love of these very special animals.”
Dinniman said he will also soon reintroduce Senate Bill 968 of last session – legislation that would add a section to Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law to specifically address when the animal cruelty happens in a domestic-violence situation.
“All too often, an estranged spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend will get back at their spouse or partner by hurting or killing their cat, dog or other pet,” Dinniman said.
Currently, if convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, the minimum monetary fine one faces is $1,000 and the maximum, $10,000. Under Dinniman’s legislation, if a person with a protection-from-abuse order against them commits animal cruelty against the pet of their spouse or partner, they would face a minimum monetary fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $15,000.