There are times when you think Pennsylvania politicians can’t do anything right. And then there are times when our state lawmakers are on the cusp of making one of the easiest, most sensible decisions possible… but nope, it’s still legal to eat cats and dogs.
Somehow that happened earlier this week. What you’d normally think of as housepets can still be lunch in Pennsylvania after the House failed Monday to vote on House Bill 1750, a measure the Senate passed 36-12 last week. As odd as allowing the consumption of cats and dogs sounds, most other states don’t have explicit bans, either. But New York, California and others do. In California it’s illegal to possess your pet’s carcass, while New York and Georgia specifically bar killing and eating dogs.
Though we probably won’t be seeing any pet-eating restaurants in Rittenhouse Square anytime soon, the consumption of dogs and cats isn’t unheard of. About 10 years ago, Pennsylvania SPCA authorities discovered a man breeding 150 Jindo dogs to sell their meat. But since our state lacks any specific law against that, they could only bust him on charges of breeding dogs in unsanitary conditions, not whipping up those puppies for dinner. In 2007, veterinary students at Penn found a neighbor who was cooking dogs, and the man couldn’t be charged.
On Monday, Maher tried to get his point across about the kind of bizarre fact by bringing a Jindo to the statehouse.
See, they are adorable. Aaaaaand yet we can still eat them.
How did more than 200 elected leaders fail to even vote on a cat-and-dog-eating bill that had gained bipartisan co-sponsorship from more than 30 house members? The bill became a tougher sell when legislation prohibiting pigeon shoots was added — that’s when a little lobbying organization of which you may have heard, the NRA, got involved.
Shooting pigeons is like shooting clay pigeons, except instead of launching fake birds into the air, real pigeons are launched and then shot.
Pennsylvania actually stands out further from the rest of the United States in allowing organized pigeon shoots. Forty-five states, according to the Humane Society of the United States, have either a ban or state laws that have been applied or could be applied to prohibiting them (even Texas, a mega-hunting state like Pennsylvania, bans pigeon shoots).
This isn’t the first time lawmakers and animal rights advocates have called for making the activity illegal. It’s been happening for decades. In 1883, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals attempted to get state legislators to prohibit pigeon shoots.
Heidi Prescott, senior vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States, spent the last three weeks in Harrisburg lobbying in support of the bill. She’s been working on getting legislation passed in Pennsylvania banning pigeon shoots since 1993, for about the same amount of time as Anne Irwin, executive director of the Bucks County SPCA. Irwin said this was the closest she had seen pigeon shoots to getting banned. A 2013 Mason-Dixon poll showed 75 percent of Pennsylvania residents approved of legislation banning pigeon shoots.
This summer, the NRA got involved. It released a statement saying the approval of House Bill 1750 would start a slippery slope leading to tighter hunting regulations. Prescott said the NRA lobbyist in Harrisburg the last few weeks was “obsessed with this issue. He worked incredibly hard.”
A spokesperson for Pennsylvania house leader Mike Turzai did not respond to an interview request and neither did the NRA.
Someone from the communications office with the NRA did speak to us briefly, though. When I explained why I wanted to speak to an NRA representative familiar with House Bill 1750, I told her about the part of the bill concerning the consumption of cats and dogs. Her response?
“That doesn’t sound good.”