The Humane Society of the United States named Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, as Pennsylvania Legislator of the Year April 28 during the society’s annual Humane Lobby Day.
Throughout the day, more than 100 advocates gathered outside of the Capitol building in Harrisburg to urge legislators to pass bills that would help protect animals.
On the steps of the Capitol, the Humane Society’s Pennsylvania State director, Sarah Speed, presented Stephens with a plaque, making him the seventh recipient of the award given to legislators who have either introduced or supported legislation that improves the animal cruelty code or have been vocal on the House floor fighting against cruelty. Speed thanked him for his commitment to cracking down on animal cruelty.
“We are so proud of Rep. Stephens and thankful that he is not only taking the strides to introduce legislation, in House Bill 164, but has also been so supportive of all forms of legislation that would benefit animals,” Speed said. “We really appreciate his time and expertise as a former prosecutor.”
Stephens recently introduced House Bill 164, which passed the House unanimously and would make “possession of animal fighting paraphernalia” an offense. The bill currently requires one more vote to clear the Senate, according to Stephens.
“House Bill 164 is one vote away from becoming law and we’re hoping to get it across the finish line in the next month or so,” Stephens said.
According to Speed, the bill is crucial to helping law enforcement agencies stop those who would engage in dog- and cockfighting. Currently, Speed said, law enforcement can only make arrests if perpetrators are in possession of both animals and the fighting paraphernalia, allowing perpetrators to store equipment and animals in separate cars or locations.
“State troopers will pull someone over that is in possession of all of the instruments for a fight, but the trooper can’t arrest them under the current law,” Speed said.
With the passage of H.B. 164, Speed said, law enforcement can make the arrest and immediately start finding out where the animals are being stored.
Stephens has also co-sponsored House Bill 760, introduced by Rep. Dom Costa, D-21, which would make repeated convictions for animal abuse a third-degree felony.
Stephens thanked the Humane Society for its work against animal abuse and for its help passing legislation that toughens penalties for those who engage in animal cruelty.
“It’s quite an honor and it was totally unexpected,” Stephens said about the receiving the award. “They’re just a terrific organization They’re dedicated to standing up for animals and making sure they are treated properly. It’s a tremendous honor and I’m happy to have their support.”