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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Update on Libre’s Law

LibreAlthough spring is only a few weeks away, the Pittsburgh region will probably experience cold weather for a little while longer.  For this reason I wanted to highlight some questions and answers from the Humane Society of the United States regarding Act 10 of 2017, known as Libre’s Law.  This act is a redraft to the original animal cruelty code from 1983 that makes it easier for law enforcement to understand and use by enhancing the care for dogs who live and are tethered outside by stiffening the penalties for animal abuse.   Unfortunately, this reminder is necessary since Allegheny County holds the title for the county with the most animal abuse cases filed in Pennsylvania. 

Who can take action for a dog lacking appropriate shelter/exposed in extreme weather?

  • A humane officer and/or law enforcement officer may enforce the cruelty code and seize an animal and file charges.  If you believe that Act 10 is not being enforced, lawfully document the situation as best you can by doing such things as taking photographs, record times and dates and request to speak with a law enforcement supervisor.  When speaking with a supervisor, cite the section of the law believed to be violated and inform him/her that you are requesting an investigation. 

Keep in mind that during extreme weather, the number of calls increases exponentially and therefore response times are likely to be longer than usual.  Additionally, animals with access to shelter will always be investigated after animals without access to any shelter or having medical conditions needing immediate treatment.

Can dogs be tethered outside in extreme weather?

  • An owner who tethers a dog for longer than 30 minutes in weather under 32 or over 90 degrees can be cited for neglect.  The statute allows an exception to this rule for temporary tasks lasting one hour like yardwork.  So, if tethering in extreme weather is the only violation, many officers will use that timeframe for determining a violation.  Additionally, when circumstances are non-life threatening, an officer may provide the owner an opportunity to remedy the issue. 

In more serious circumstances when the dog’s health and safety are at risk, an officer may choose to file charges and/or obtain a search warrant to remove the dog.  These decisions are based on numerous situationally specific factors.

Can a dog be left outside in extreme weather?

  • Yes.  While the intent of Libre’s Law was to protect dogs from severe conditions, current language still allows that a dog can be kept outside in these temperatures as long as he/she is untethered, has shelter that maintains adequate body temperature and keeps the dog dry. 

With that being said, there are certain temperatures under which no outdoor shelter will allow them to maintain their body temperature.  Additional penalties may apply if the conditions are so poor that the animal is at imminent risk of severe injury or death.  If you are aware of a dog in immediate danger, continue reporting it to law enforcement until an officer responds. 

What about dogs with inadequate shelter?

  • Pennsylvania cruelty code requires that shelter must be sufficient to permit the animal to retain body heat and keep the animal dry.  An officer is empowered to utilize the cruelty code if, upon responding to a report, he/she finds a dilapidated/damp/uninsulated structure, and/or the dog appears to be in distress.  Examples of distress would be excessive vocalization, limping, panting, shivering, paleness, whimpering, frostbite, stiff limbs or ice on body parts. 

In addition to extreme weather guidelines, what are the new rules for tethering?

  • Dogs may not be tethered for more than 9 cumulative hours in a 24-hour period.  The tether may not be a tow or logging chain and must be at least 10 feet long and attaches to a well-fitted collar with a swivel.  This means no choke, prong or chain collars allowed.  Additionally, dogs must not be surrounded by excess water or have open sores/wounds.  They must have access to clean drinking water and an area of shade. 

Re-Elected PHEAA Vice Chair

PHEAAI was honored last week to have been re-elected as the Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) board of directors. I am proud to serve as Vice Chair, especially considering the many difficult challenges that Pennsylvania families can face when planning for a higher education. We are fortunate for the collective experiences that my colleagues on the Board bring to the table including real-world education and finance and business experience, that will help us address the evolving needs of today’s students and families.

PHEAA was created in 1963 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly with the mission of creating affordable access to higher education and has since evolved into one of the nation’s leading student aid organizations.  PHEAA’s business earnings are used to support its public service mission for the Commonwealth and to pay its operating costs, including administration of the Pennsylvania State Grant and other student aid programs. This saves taxpayers millions of dollars annually while ensuring that every dollar that the General Assembly appropriates to a student aid program goes directly to support Pennsylvania students. 

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

Property TaxThe Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.  If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail.  Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190.  As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older.  The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters.  Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.

Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30 and rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Did You Know…

Did you know that since the program’s 1971 inception, older and disabled adults have received more than $6.9 billion in property tax and rent relief?

Drug and Alcohol Referral Tool

Fight OpioidI want to remind everyone of an online tool to help individuals identify drug and alcohol treatment options and supportive services for themselves or a loved one.

A team comprised of staff from the Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Human Services worked together to create the Drug and Alcohol Referral Tool (DART), a tool that centralizes ways to connect a person to drug and alcohol treatment and related support resources. This tool can be found at www.ddap.pa.gov/GetHelp.

The DART tool is a free, anonymous resource. Results are generated based off a person’s answers to survey questions and individuals may skip a question at any point. The tool is not a diagnostic assessment and does not gauge eligibility for any programs, rather the goal is to assist people who are looking for services but are not sure where to begin.

After completing the questionnaire, an individual will be able to email, download, and/or print their results. The tool does not ask any identifying information and does not save answers after the tool is closed.

DART can be a valuable resource for anyone looking for help. If you or anyone you know are seeking treatment, please consider using this online tool.

Gaming Revenue Reported

Black JackThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that revenue generated by table games during January increased nearly 5 percent over revenues from January 2018. Revenue generated from table games in January totaled more than $74.9 million, compared to just over $71 million generated in January 2018. Tax revenue generated from table games play in January totaled more than $11.9 million.

The Gaming Control Board also published the January Sports Wagering Report.  The report encompasses the full month returns from:

  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Dauphin
  • SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia
  • Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh

The report also includes partial month returns from

  • Parx Casino in Bucks County which began operations on Thursday, January 10, 2019;
  • Parx South Philadelphia Turf Club in Philadelphia which began operations on Thursday, January 17, 2019; and,
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia in Delaware County which began operations on Thursday, January 24, 2019.

The monthly report, which will include additional facilities as they launch sportsbooks, provides a breakdown of the total handle collected, gross revenue, and taxes paid to the Commonwealth.

Casino Handle Revenue Tax
SugarHouse Casino $10,795,121 $103,523 $37,268
Rivers Casino $9,543,112 $853,316 $307,194
Parx Casino* $5,382,620 $1,170,348 $421,325
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course $4,817,151 $284,624 $102,465
Parx South Philadelphia Turf Club* $858,130 $91,835 $33,061
Harrah’s Philadelphia* $615,704 $103,569 $37,285
Statewide Total $32,011,839 $2,607,205 $938,597

*includes revenue generated during two-day test periods prior to commencing regular operations.

Here is the breakdown of the tax revenue generated:

  • State Tax (34% of adjusted gross revenue):                        $886,453
  • Local Share Assessment (2% of adjusted gross revenue):   $52,144

The state’s gaming industry employs about 17,000 people.  For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.

Ohio Valley Hospital’s Diabetes Day

Ohio Valley Hospital Ohio Valley Hospital is hosting their 11th annual Diabetes Day, located in the School of Nursing Auditorium at the hospital on 25 Heckel Road in Kennedy Township. The event is scheduled for Thursday, March 21 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and will provide attendees the ABC’s of Free Testing: A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Cooking demonstrations and expert lectures will also be featured, and guests can receive free samples and visit with vendors.  Free parking will be provided. 

For more information please call 412-771-6205.

Fontana FactAmerican Heart Month

February is American Heart Month. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, or one in every four deaths. Learn more about heart disease and how to adopt healthy behaviors in order to be heart healthy at www.heart.org.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment