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Animal Advocate

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Attorney Garry S. Taroli ’76 Works Tirelessly For Animal Rights

By Andrew Seder

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Garry S. Taroli ’76 confers with Big Mama, one of the dogs whose cases he has defended for the Luzerne County SPCA. Photo by Earl and Sedor Photographic

The curtain has come down on the world’s largest circus. Sea World has stopped breeding orcas in captivity and states have cracked down on puppy mills. There are laws stipulating how long dogs can be kept outside in extreme weather. Garry S. Taroli ’76 has applauded the decisions, seeing each as a victory, not just for animals, but for humans, too.

The Wilkes alumnus, a Wilkes-Barre real estate attorney by trade, has made a local, state and international name for himself in the animal rights realm. His heart, his checkbook and much of his free time are devoted to making sure the voiceless are heard.

Taroli’s involvement is reflected in his board membership with the SPCA of Luzerne County; his work with rescue organizations such as Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge, Valley Cat Rescue or Modified K-9;  and his role as a special Luzerne County assistant district attorney tasked with prosecuting animal cruelty cases.

The Dallas, Pa., resident has shared his home with more than a dozen animals in his life, including Lilah, a German shepherd/collie mix who died in 2017 at the age of 16.

“You always hear about dogs that are your soulmate,” Taroli says. “That was her.”

But it was Laddie, his very first dog, that made an indelible impression on his psyche and steered him down a lifelong path of acting in the best interests of animals. His parents brought Laddie home to the family home in Kingston, Pa., when Taroli was 4. The two quickly bonded, but within a few years the dog had contracted distemper, which at that time was a death sentence.

His parents sent Laddie to live with Taroli’s grandfather, who worked in the coal mines for decades and who was known as someone who could fix anything. Young Garry thought the dog could be fixed, too, but he learned that wasn’t the case.

“Years later, when that scene came back to me, it was one of those things that really affected me,” he says. His love of animals was uncaged.

Taroli majored in political science at Wilkes. While he still lived with his parents during college, the Wilkes swimming pool was his home away from home. A four-year member of the Colonels swim team – he co-captained his final two years – he fondly recalls his teammates, the meets and how that team went from also-rans to powerhouse.

“We ended up breaking every swimming record but one,” Taroli says. Although his name is no longer in the record book, his memories remain worthy of a gold medal. He still keeps in touch with many of his teammates and they get together often.

But while swimming was rewarding for him personally, his success in the water didn’t make a big splash toward helping the plight of animals, which he yearned to do. After he earned his law degree at Dickinson School of Law and started practicing law with the firm Rosenn Jenkins and Greenwald, he began devoting his free time to animal rights issues

He was instrumental, along with Luzerne County SPCA Executive Director Todd Hevner, in getting the county council to adopt an ordinance prohibiting dogs from being outdoors for more than 30 minutes when the mercury rises above 90 degrees or dips below freezing.

The ordinance was a feather in his cap and he was even more pleased when the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Libre’s Law, a statewide statute that incorporated the outdoor dog ordinance Luzerne County instituted and added to it, including stiffer penalties.

His activism isn’t limited to local causes. The July 2015 killing of 13-year-old Cecil the lion on a reserve in Zimbabwe by an American infuriated him. He made his outrage known through media interviews, a Washington rally and even a letter to the Zimbabwe embassy.

A vegetarian since 1995, Taroli, who loves the Grateful Dead, the San Francisco Giants and “Star Trek,” quotes Ghandi: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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Hevner praises Taroli for his work with the SPCA and his animal rights advocacy, much of it on a pro bono basis. Taroli received the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Pro Bono award in 2017 and was recognized with a citation from the state House of Representatives for his advocacy work.

“I don’t know a man who is a bigger advocate for animals, period,” Hevner says, adding that the passion, knowledge and guidance Taroli has provided to the SPCA and other organizations is “invaluable.”

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis says even before she became district attorney, she knew Taroli from his reputation as someone “known for his dedication to help animals who have suffered from abuse and neglect. When I met him, I realized he was so much more.”

The press release that accompanied the pro bono award called Taroli “a hero.” Taroli scoffs at the word.

“There are people like Todd, humane officers like Wayne Harvey, Marge Bart at Blue Chip, who live this every minute of every day. They’re the heroes,” he says.

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