Animal abusers in Pennsylvania could face fines of at least $500 and felony charges under a new law that went into effect this week.
Libre's Law increases penalties even for first-time offenders. It's named for the once-abused Boston Terrier-turned representative for animal rights, who co-signed the bill with his paw print alongside Governor Wolf back in June.
Before today, Pennsylvania was one of three states that did not classify animal cruelty as a felony.
The law also includes stricter tethering rules for dogs, which must have access to shade and water when outside. They also cannot be out longer than 30 minutes in temperatures above 90 and below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Animal lovers said the harsher penalties make a difference, including Janice Barnard, Humane Animal Rescue's Director of Behavior and Intake.
"There's a better sense of justice, because you have more latitude for holding people accountable for serious abuse and neglect cases, instead of having the prevailing attitude that it's just a dog or just a cat," she said.
Barnard said about 10 percent of the animals brought to Humane Animal Rescue show signs of abuse or neglect. While most of these animals bounce back, sometimes there are longstanding psychological effects.
"Pennsylvania has been notorious for not having any laws with teeth regarding animal issues," she said. "It's good to have something to fall back on now."
Animal abuse in Pennsylvania can be reported at 866-601-SPCA.