Will Pennsylvania humane officers lose their badges?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1994:

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania––
Five bills before the Pennsylvania state legis-
lature, a court case pending in Ohio, and a
political fracas in Wisconsin together signal
that humane enforcement is no longer a
backwater of police work, easily left to ama-
teurs and the bottom of the court calendar.
It is almost certain that before 1994
is over, the structure of humane enforcement
in Pennsylvania will either be reinforced or
demolished, depending upon which mea-
sures from the competing bills best survive
the process of committee review and amend-
ment––and how one interprets the results. It
is possible that the Ohio court decision,
expected this summer (separate story, page
15), could spark a similar burst of legisla-
tive activity. In Wisconsin, rules governing
search warrants could be amended. In all
three states the humane community is wor-
ried because opponents are all but salivating
at the prospect of forcing “activist” anti-cru-
elty officers off the beat. Some of the pro-
posed Pennsylvania legislation would
exempt farmers from humane enforcement;

define dogs and cats as “agricultural ani-
mals” if bred and raised commercially; limit
humane law enforcement to one agency per
county; and give the state department of
agriculture supervisory jurisdiction over
humane officers.
Similar legislation is in effect in
other states. For instance, New York also
limits humane law enforcement to one
agency per county, and humane enforce-
ment in Connecticut is also supervised by
the department of agriculture. But precedent
is no consolation to the many Pennsylvania
humane officers who might lose their authori-
ty, at least until completing certification
courses––or whose agencies might lose their
right to have humane officers.
The latter prospect is of particular
concern to organizations such as Farm
Sanctuary, of Lancaster, and the Large
Animal Protection Society, of Parksburg,
which instead of covering a particular region
instead concern themselves with the protection
of a particular class of animal. It’s also a con-
cern to the seven humane law enforcement
agencies in Alleghany County, who together
serve Pittsburgh and environs. Under one leg-
islative scenario, six of the seven would lose
their officers. If the officers were unable to
work under the auspices of the single county
enforcement agency designated by the
Department of Agriculture, they would
become former officers. Most would not be
out of work, because most are not paid––but
they could no longer write citations.
Fumes Animal Care and Welfare
SPCA chief humane agent Edward J. Blotzer
Jr., of Pittsburgh, “At a time when violence
and brutality against people and animals
appears to be on the increase, I believe it is
best to put handcuffs on criminals, not on law
enforcement officers who have been protect-
ing animals from abuse for over 125 years.”
A retired locomotive engineer,
Blotzer, age 70, is the senior anti-cruelty cop
on the western Pennsylvania beat. It was he
who initiated regular prosecutions in 1970,
after incorporating the Animal Care and
Welfare SPCA out of frustration with his
inability to bring abusers to justice as a volun-
teer with an older humane group. It was
Blotzer who suggested in 1987 that a handful
of district justices should be empowered to
issue warrants in cruelty cases that would be
valid anywhere in Alleghany County––giving
the justices with the most interest in such cases
the chance to develop expertise, while reliev-
ing others of that part of their often heavy
workload. It was also Blotzer who trained
most of the humane officers now active in
Pittsburgh. Several of the other enforcement
agencies active in Alleghany County in fact
split off from Blotzer’s organization.
Now Blotzer sees much of his work
being undone. Since October, Barbara White
Stack of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette h a s
repeatedly attacked the lack of uniform stan-
dards for becoming a humane officer in
Pennsylvania, the lack of coordinated enforce-
ment, the lack of public accountability, and
perceived uneven interpretation of what cruel-
ty is, citing instances where one agency would
clear an individual and another would come to
write a citation the next day. Some of White’s
examples of alleged abuse of authority have
been dubious––for instance, the objections of
an apparent animal collector to having had 16
diseased cats seized and euthanized––but
judges and elected officials have taken note.
Courts overturn enforcement
On October 26, Alleghany County
president Paul Zavarella ordered a halt to the
arrangement Blotzer had made with the district
justices, to prevent “justice shopping,” the
practice of humane officers taking a possibly
weak case before the most sympathetic possi-
ble justice to get a search-and-seizure warrant.
Then, December 28, Fayette
County judge William Franks ruled that inves-
tigator Autumn Fike of the Fayette SPCA
lacked the qualifications and training to be a
police officer, after she tried to enforce
humane laws against several local farmers.
Since Pennsylvania has no written standards
for humane officers, Franks said, he would
make up his own, requiring training in the
care of domestic animals, animal husbandry,
and use of firearms, as well as a background
check similar to that required of private detec-
tives. Failure to meet the standards means
inability to prosecute cases in his courtroom.
In Ohio the hot issue is the consti-
tutionality of a statute that seems to allow any-
one claiming to act for humane reasons to
seize animals from private property. “Justice
shopping” is again the charge in Wisconsin,
after Milwaukee County circuit judge Dominic
Amato authorized a search warrant for Cindy
Schultz of The Animal Lobby in December,
one day after her request was refused by a
judge in Manitowoc County. Schultz had
campaigned for Amato when he unsuccessful-
ly sought an appointment to the Wisconsin
Supreme Court last year.
One way or another, the require-
ments for doing humane enforcement may
soon be brought into line with those for doing
other police work––including standardized
training, coordination by regional authorites,
and uniform interpretations of the laws to be
enforced. Whatever humane enforcement
loses in vigilante gusto, it could gain in pro-
fessionalism and judicial respect.
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