Fox Guarding the Henhouse? Why Caltagirone is Right.Posted by in Uncategorized
Berks Representative Tom Caltagirone has been right before on animal welfare. Notably, when he shepherded through the Puppy Mill Bill II, which closed the stunning loophole in Pennsylvania law allowing any idiot with a scalpel to perform surgery on his own dog. Tom has just proposed an amendment to the Humane Law Enforcement Act which is long overdue. It would transfer the Office of Dog law Enforcement out of the Department of Agriculture and into the State Police.
This move is needed because of the structural conflict of having the Department of Agriculture be responsible for both promoting farming and agriculture in Pennsylvania and also in enforcing and regulating the conditions in kennels and the wellbeing of dogs. These two competing imperatives bump heads regularly as Wardens face either doing their enforcement job or protecting farmers from the negative consequences of that very enforcement. They can’t win either way.
If this suggestion sounds familiar, it may be because Humane Society of Berks County has been promoting the idea for several years behind the scenes and for the last couple of years very publicly. We agree entirely with Rep. Caltagirone and wholeheartedly support his proposals.
I would suggest he go one step further, however. He should also seek to amend the law to strip private police officers of their cruelty enforcement powers completely. The reality is that there are Humane Society Police Officers only because the state wouldn’t do its job. So they created a private police force to do it for them, bearing all the costs and receiving none of the protections of “real” police. Just as we wouldn’t have private citizens running around enforcing sections of PA law with the blessing of the courts and accountable to no one, we shouldn’t let humane officers do it either. We should force the state to do the job only it can do well: enforce the laws on the books.
This is not a popular view among animal welfare agencies. Some fear a lack of enforcement. Others may simply fear losing power and authority. But we should give up this “power” now and demand that the police don’t pick and choose the laws they want to enforce and stick charities with the ones they don’t think are important.
Tom Caltagirone’s proposal to move the Office of Dog Law to the State Police is a great step. Taken along with judicial reform, we could make more progress to help animals than we have in decades.