By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – This is Effie, an abused female dog, just after she was rescued.

She now has a shot at another life.

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“I was literally holding a skeleton, a living skeleton,” says Pittsburgh Police Officer Christine Luffey.

Last Thursday, a pest control serviceman saw Effie in an apartment in the 7000-block of Kelly Street in Homewood and took this picture on his cell phone.

“He was so distraught over what he saw that he wanted to do something about it,” recalled Luffey.

What the still unnamed Good Samaritan did was send the photo to Humane Officer Ed Mitchell, who with Luffey tracked down and rescued Effie from another apartment in Wilkinsburg.

When Effie was brought to the Humane Society she only weighed 23 pounds.

“Her body condition was — we rate them on a scale of 1 to 9 — her’s was a 1.  She could not be any thinner and still be with us,” said veterinary Dr. Todd Blauvelt, medical director at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

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A dog her size and breed should weigh about 50 to 60 pounds.

Effie was so starved that she apparently ate plastic and underwear that required surgery to un-block her intestines.

“She’s responded amazingly well to the treatment,” said Blauvelt.

Police have not released much information about the dog’s owner except to say he’s a 19-year-old male.

“I’ll get him,” promises Luffey.

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Part of the problem are state laws that treat animal abuse as a statutory offense like a parking ticket, unless you can prove more.

“Until we are out of the medical woods, we won’t know what charges we’ll be filing against this individual or individuals connected to this dog,” said Mitchell in response to a question from KDKA’s Jon Delano.

Delano:  “Do you believe the dog was tortured?”

Mitchell:  “I do. Personally, yes.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Dom Costa, a Morningside Democrat, has introduced a bill to make it easier to charge animal abusers by upping the offense to a misdemeanor three.

“You will face a higher fine, possible jail time, but the best thing is it tracks you because you have to have your picture and fingerprints taken when you’re charged with a misdemeanor.”

While the dog’s owner has not been arrested, Pittsburgh police expect that to happen.

“This is far from over.  We will file charges in this case,” promises Luffey.

But animal advocates say state law is weak in protecting animals, prompting Costa to action.

“Animals can’t protect themselves.  We have to protect them from people like this.”

Costa’s bill ups the offense from parking ticket status to a misdemeanor.

The Humane Society urges everyone to contact their state lawmakers to get on board H.B. 113 so that, says the Humane Society’s Mary Withrow, “If you commit a crime against an animal, you will pay. It will be a misdemeanor that comes with a criminal record and you do it again, you’re now a felon. Your second count, you become a felon. That’s a life changer.”

Costa says if you see an animal that you suspect is abused, “Now is the time to use these [cell phones], take a picture of these animals and get them into the Humane Society, and they’ll take the appropriate action.”

Says Officer Luffey, who will foster Effie, “If you see something, say something. And there’s not going to be any more excuses for animal cruelty in Pittsburgh. No more.”

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If anyone would like to donate to help Effie, visit the Western Pa. Humane Society’s website here.