If you’ve ever worked in a law office, however briefly, it can be overwhelming to go into the library and realize just how many trees die on an annual basis to record the laws, ordinances, regulations, statutes, and rulings that keep our society going. Lawyers can obsess over minutiae even more than editors, which is saying something. I used to do legal proofreading, which required me to learn the worst traits of both professions without the comfort of owning so much as a Mercedes or BMW to make up for the complete obliteration of my soul.
Bitterness about my former career paths aside, the point is that there are a lot of laws out there. And even though the sheer number of them is amazing, it’s sometimes even more amazing how many laws that should be there in fact are not.
Take Pennsylvania, for example. The Keystone State has apparently just discovered that at some point, it neglected to outlaw breeding of cats and dogs to be slaughtered as food. Lawmakers are on it, though; just before Thanksgiving, the Pennsylvania Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would make it illegal to breed, process, slaughter, or sell dogs or cats for human consumption.
The law closes a rather strange loophole that is actually more common in the United States than one might think. Federal food safety law makes it illegal for slaughterhouses to process dogs and cats. That takes care of where the vast majority of Americans get their meat. It does not, however, cover home meat-slaughtering operations. If you want to set up some cages in your garage, basement, or back yard to raise dogs as food, everything’s okay — or at least legal.
There aren’t many cases that fall into this category, but apparently the Pennsylvania SPCA has investigated a half-dozen in the past 10 years. The largest, according to George Bengal, the SPCA’s director of law enforcement, involved a man who was keeping 150 Jindo dogs in a licensed kennel. When his kennel was shut down for unsanitary conditions, he was very forthright in telling officers that the dogs were being raised as watchdogs and food.
“This bill should help deter the consumption of dogs and cats for food by making private consumption illegal. But we also hope it raises awareness in the community to get involved so there’s more visibility for enforcement,” Bengal said.
If the law passes in its current form, offenders would face as long as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.