The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) is excited to announce that House Bill (HB) 1238, passed the Senate unanimously last week and now heads to Governor Wolf for his signature. Thank you to Representative Mark Keller for his long-standing support of PVMA and our profession and his tireless efforts to get veterinary immunity passed.
Representative Keller's HB 268 is included in the sweeping changes and improvements of HB 1238 introduced by Representative Todd Stephens. This bill provides civil immunity for any veterinary professional who reports suspected cruelty of animals in good faith. The veterinary profession is strongly encouraged to report suspected cruelty under the Principles of Veterinary Ethics, but this legislation goes a major step forward and provides protection under the law to prevent veterinarians from being sued when they report suspected abuse. "I am pleased we were able to include my proposal in this comprehensive animal protection legislation to provide veterinarians, technicians and assistants with civil immunity when reporting cases of cruelty," said Representative Keller (R-Perry/Cumberland). "This should end any legal concerns they may have when spotting an abused animal and lead to more prosecutions of those responsible for that abuse. HB 1238 is a huge win for those in the veterinary profession and the animals that receive their care."
HB 1238's passage is also a major victory for animals. Introduced by Representative Stephens and 30 co-sponsors, it is a bipartisan, comprehensive, anti-cruelty bill that provides needed updates to Pennsylvania's cruelty statute and adds many provisions of various cruelty bills that have been introduced this session, including "Libre's Law" strengthening penalties, tethering language, equine protections and more.
Pennsylvania's animal cruelty law, Section 5511 of Title 18 of the Crimes Code, was originally passed into law in 1983. Since that time, it has been amended in a way that has created a law that is often difficult to interpret. The biggest change is that it will be possible to file felony level penalties for first time cruelty offenses outside of animal fighting or killing an endangered species. In addition, rather than a single section (5511(C)) lumping together every form of cruelty, the legislation breaks down the penalties for different grades of cruelty and different penalties based on the egregiousness of the conduct and how many prior offenses there have been. In addition, Humane Society Police Officers will be provided civil immunity from frivolous lawsuits, which is standard for all other law enforcement.
About the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA)
Founded in 1883, PVMA is PA's only statewide professional membership organization for the veterinary profession representing over 3,000 veterinarians, certified veterinary technicians, assistants, practice managers, and other support staff. Our mission is to ensure the vitality of the profession by promoting excellence in veterinary medicine, advancing animal health and welfare, and protecting and enhancing human health.