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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 22, 2014 01:38 PM
From: Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Cruelty To Horses- “Cordelia’s Law”
I plan to introduce legislation to address the enforcement and application of Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws, particularly as they pertain to horses. Horses are expensive, requiring specialized care and significant resources. They clearly present a much larger responsibility on both the owner and society than a typical domestic pet. When their owners no longer provide care for them, for whatever reason, a large burden falls on the community, and there are frequently not enough volunteers, funding or placement opportunities for unwanted or neglected horses.

This issue came to my attention through the tragic death of a horse in my District, who came to be known as “Cordelia.” Cordelia was discovered in a Bedford County auto salvage yard. She could barely stand, had no shelter, and was clearly suffering from starvation. Despite several days of veterinary and foster care in an attempt to get Cordelia back on her feet, including intravenous feeding, she could not be saved. As these efforts progressed, the inadequacy and lack of clarity in the animal cruelty laws in these types of situations became evident.

Unfortunately, I learned that this is not an isolated case, not even in my own district. Since Cordelia’s death, Bedford County alone has received 4 more calls for intervention for extremely malnourished horses. One of those horses died while still on the owner’s property waiting for help while the County’s Humane Society pleaded with law enforcement for a seizure order. According to the Center for Equine Health at the University of California-Davis, the number of unwanted, abandoned or "problem" horses has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past decade, estimated now to average about 170,000 per year within the United States alone.

In Pennsylvania, non-profit humane societies have the primary responsibility to enforce violations of animal cruelty laws, in much the same manner as a police officer. These humane "police officers" provided by the non-profits are appointed and must undergo training and meet certain qualifications. I believe Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty provisions lack clarity and fail to provide necessary guidance and uniformity, especially to those who are tasked with protecting the humane treatment of these large animals.

This legislation will amend Title 18 (Crimes) to better define “torture” and to provide appropriate penalties with language drafted with the assistance of the Farm Bureau. The bill will also amend Chapter 37 of Title 22 (pertaining to Humane Society Police Officers) to require the development of standards and procedures for determining violations under Section 5511 and the need for seizure of animals in extreme instances of torture or cruelty.

Introduced as SB294