ANIMALS IN DISTRESS
In June, Pennsylvania became safer for animals, especially pets, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Libre’s Law.
On Aug. 30, Lois Gadek, Ph.D., president of the board of trustees of Animals in Distress, a no-kill shelter in Upper Saucon Township, gave State Rep. Justin Simmons, R-131st and Kristen Tullo, Humane Society of the United States - Pennsylvania state director, a tour of the shelter to illustrate the constituents whom the law protects – animals, including pets and future pets.
“Animals deserve consideration. Their lives do matter,” Gadek said of the law in a brief interview before the tour. “The conscience of a community is tied to how we treat living things.”
Named for Libre, a Boston terrier who was rescued in dire condition in Lancaster County, the law increases penalties for animal abuse and cruelty. According to media accounts, at the time of his rescue in July 2016, Libre, then seven weeks old, was dehydrated, malnourished and struggling to breathe. His plight caught the attention of Pennsylvania lawmakers. Libre’s Law, among other regulations, provides for more discretion for prosecutors and judges based on the level of injury to an animal or pet. The legislation also provides added protections for horses and those dogs left tethered outside.
“With the new law going into effect, our work has just begun,” Tullo said in a brief interview before touring Animals in Distress.
Situated on a 42-acre farm property in Upper Saucon Township, the no kill shelter, as of Aug. 30, is home to more than 50 dogs and more than 300 cats. The cats and dogs live in distinct wings separated by a large courtyard.
Simmons, Tullo and HSUS State Council member Suzanne Gonzalez, with Gadek as their guide, walked the halls of the facility and met with volunteers, staff and animals, including Primrose, a calico cat and Mya, a dog who had been cruelly treated.
Animals at the shelter are cared for by a small staff and many longtime volunteers.
Linda Hoffert, a member of the board of trustees at the shelter, has volunteered at Animals in Distress about a dozen years and was featured on Facebook Live during the tour as Primrose’s handler for a short video.
“We all agree it’s a wonderful thing,” Hoffert said of the law. “And about time.”
The hour-plus long tour allowed Simmons and others to see rooms where the animals live, areas where supplies and food donations are stored, a whirlpool used for therapy sessions for dogs with arthritis and hip problems and many of the animal residents. The shelter, which does not accept government funding, features heated floors, a specially designed ventilation and heating system, indoor and outdoor dog runs, outdoor paths for volunteers to take dogs for walks and laundry rooms to wash pet blankets.
“It’s awe inspiring,” Gonzalez said of the shelter.
Simmons described Libre’s Law as earning bipartisan support in the state legislature and as a “chance for Pennsylvania to be a leader” on legislation concerning animals.