Emaciated dog cited as reason to bolster Pa. animal cruelty law


PITTSBURGH — An emaciated dog seized from a city apartment last week is being cited as another reason the state’s animal cruelty law needs to be stiffened.

An emaciated dog seized from a Pittsburgh apartment in January is being cited as another reason the state's animal cruelty law needs to be stiffened.

Pittsburgh police plan to charge the dog’s owner with animal cruelty. They’re working with the Allegheny County district attorney’s office in hopes of filing a misdemeanor charge against the owner — which carries up to a year in jail — instead of a summary citation that generally carries only a fine.

But Western Pennsylvania Humane Society officials said the case highlights the need for a bill proposed by state Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny. If passed, the bill would make the first charge of animal cruelty filed against someone a misdemeanor and the second a felony.

“In all her pain, she licked my face,” Officer Christine Luffey said of Effie, the 3-year-old pit bull mix the officer rescued. The dog’s ribs and hip bones could be plainly seen beneath her light-brown coat, and she weighed only 23 pounds.

Intestinal blockage: The dog vomited food, so the shelter determined she had an intestinal blockage. Surgeons at the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in nearby Ohio Township removed bones, orange peels, and pieces of cloth and plastic that the starving dog had eaten, said Todd Blauvelt, the shelter’s veterinarian.

Luffey was providing a foster home for the dog while it recovers from surgery and gains weight.

“Effie needs TLC, and she and I have a bond,” Luffey said. “I’ve cried for five days about this dog.”

The shelter’s executive director, Joy Braunstein, said it has a food pantry and other programs to help poorer pet owners.

“There is no excuse to starve a dog like Effie, because programs are available to help pet owners with limited financial resources,” she said.