Center for Leadership

Sarah Speed

Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART)

Sarah Speed began her career in animal protection in law school as president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.  After attending her first animal law conference, Sarah returned home a vegetarian and dedicated animal advocate.  Soon thereafter, her public interest law professor dropped an article on her desk about a new law adopted in Maine which allowed animals to be included on protective orders in domestic violence situations.  This idea seemed so commonsense that Sarah was convinced that California already had a similar law.  A simple investigation revealed that not only were animals not protected under the protective order act, but judges had very different interpretations of the underlying law.  So, while still in law school, Sarah drafted legislation, built a coalition of supporters including domestic violence shelters, testified on behalf of the legislation, and saw it signed by Governor Schwarzenegger shortly after graduation.

Named an inaugural recipient of the Jack Rodger’s Animal Law Scholarship and awarded the Public Interest Law Award from University of San Diego School of Law where she received her Juris Doctorate in 2007, Sarah graduated, got her bar license in California, Washington D.C. and eventually Pennsylvania, and was determined to work in animal protection.  Fortunately, the Humane Society of the United States had just created the position of State Director focusing on policy work.  Sarah applied for every state they posted and was selected for Pennsylvania.

As Pennsylvania State Director, Sarah was responsible for shepherding all animal related legislation, trained hundreds of law enforcement officers and volunteers in political advocacy and animal cruelty and created coalitions of animal interests statewide.  She has testified before the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Game and Fisheries and Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate and served as spokesperson for the nation’s largest animal protection organization within the state.

After eight years with HSUS and successfully working to pass eleven pieces of legislation, Sarah was selected as the next Executive Director of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee.  The House Judiciary Committee is one of the busiest in the legislature and is responsible for reviewing all legislation dealing with the crimes code, including animal cruelty.  Sarah authored an overhaul of the animal cruelty code which was signed into law in 2016 and contained the first ever felony level penalties for animal cruelty in the Commonwealth.  She also was the lead staffer on the establishment of Pennsylvania’s Medical marijuana program, revisions to the crimes code to protect child victims of sex trafficking, and a redrafting of the state’s organ donation law.  Sarah moved to fulfill this same role in the Senate in April of 2019 under Senator Larry Farnese.

Sarah is also the Interim Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team.  PASART is a national leader in emergency response for animals, integrated within the state emergency management agency, PASART provides equipment and trained volunteers to respond to animal related emergencies ranging from highway accidents and agricultural emergencies to large scale hoarding cases and animal fighting.  Sarah has served in the state emergency operations center during Hurricanes Irene and Lee and took two teams to New Jersey and ran the Monmouth county animal shelter and led search and rescue missions in Hurricane Sandy.

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