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Humane Society honors advocates sticking up for dogs in a ruff spot

Humane Society
Tom Shortell
State Reps. Michael Schlossberg (lower left) and Josh Seigel (lower right), both D-Lehigh, pet rescue dog Kitzie at the Lehigh Valley Humane Society in Allentown, Friday, May 26, 2023. Above them (l-r), animal rights advocates Grace Kelly Herbert and Sheryl Petrillo speak with Rep. Jeanne McNeill, the sponsor of a bill aiming to shut down for-profit pet stores.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Animal rights advocates celebrated some of their local champions Friday while urging lawmakers to pass a state law they said will make it harder for puppy mills to stay in business.

Local dignitaries and animal lovers gathered at the Lehigh Valley Humane Society's shelter on Dixon Street to recognize Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, local advocate Sheryl Petrillo and the local chapter of the Humane Society for their efforts to battle animal cruelty.

McNeill is the prime sponsor of Victoria's Law, a bill that would shut down selling dogs at pet stores beginning in 2025. Far too many of these shops are more concerned about banking a profit than about the humane treatment of the animals, she said. Under the proposed bill, pet stores that don't operate as kennels would be allowed to remain in business and could showcase animals up for adoption that are housed at animal shelters.

  • Local animal rights advocates honored Rep. Jeanne McNeill Friday for her support and efforts to pass Victoria's Law
  • The bill would bar pet shops from selling puppies. Supporters say pet shops are frequently used to sell dogs born at puppy mills
  • Also honored was Sheryl Petrillo, who lobbied Allentown and Easton to pass laws against animal cruelty

Business owners who don't comply would face a fine of $100 for each day they're in violation plus a misdemeanor charge for each dog in their store. The law would not affect animal shelters or dog breeders who sell animals directly to consumers. The bill has lingered in Harrisburg for years despite drawing bipartisan support.
"I'm not going to stop fighting for this bill, and I hope all of you continue to do so," McNeill told the 50 people in attendance as she accepted the first annual Victoria's Award.

The law is named after Victoria, a 10-year-old German Shepherd rescued from a puppy mill. By the time she was 10, she had given birth to more than 150 puppies and was paralyzed from a genetic condition common to dogs born into puppy mills. Her puppies inherited the same condition, according to the memo accompanying the bill. McNeill said Victoria's Law would double as consumer protection, as many families who purchase a puppy mill dog learn too late they've acquired a sick animal.

Grace Kelly Herbert, a Norristown animal rescue organizer who took Victoria in, praised McNeill as a true advocate. McNeill has accompanied her on animal rescues, fostered dogs herself and works as a volunteer to assess if a household is a good match for a dog up for adoption.

"She doesn't just walk the walk, she talks the talk," Herbert said.

The Humane Society of the United States recently put out its annual Horrible Hundred report, a collection of 100 problematic puppy mills across the country. While Missouri had far and away the most offenders with 31, Pennsylvania ranked fourth with eight. None of the eight are in the Lehigh Valley.

"I knew from that day forward I had to do something to end this. I couldn't wait for state legislators to do something because Victoria's Law has been in the process for so many years."
Sheryl Petrillo, who successfully lobbied Allentown to ban pet stores selling dogs

Petrillo was presented the Animal We Love Award from the National chapter of the Humane Society. Petrillo successfully lobbied local lawmakers in Allentown and Easton to enact tougher animal rights laws.

Both cities have banned the practice of declawing cats, and Allentown passed a local version of Victoria's Law. She grew emotional recounting how she scoped out a since-closed Allentown pet store only to come across a sick corgi puppy on sale for $3,000. She said the bill she pushed for passed unanimously last fall.

"I knew from that day forward I had to do something to end this. I couldn't wait for state legislators to do something because Victoria's Law has been in the process for so many years," Petrillo said.

The state chapter of the Humane Society also recognized the Lehigh Valley chapter for its ongoing partnership. The local chapter has taken in animals from around the globe, including dogs rescued from South Korean dog meat traders.