A new law in Pennsylvania will give animal shelters more legal recourse in seeking reimbursement for treatment of abused animals.

Starting in September, Pennsylvania animal shelters will be able to petition a Court of Common Pleas for an order requiring defendants accused of animal cruelty to pay the costs of the animal's care, according to local paper The Times-Tribune.

Until now, shelters have had to wait months for a defendant to be convicted of charges before seeking reimbursement for the boarding and care of abused animals. Shelters had to pay the costs up front and often never saw full reimbursement.

According to The Times Tribune, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it petitioned courts for $744,000 in reimbursement costs last year, but received $31,000.

“Each year, hundreds of animals are seized by law enforcement and placed in shelters as a result of animal abuse cases,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Ellis (R-Lyndora) told The Times-Tribune. “The shelters that take in these abused animals are typically private, nonprofit organizations that rely heavily on donations to operate.”

The new law requires a hearing within three weeks of a petition. The Times Tribune reports if the animal owner fails to pay what the court orders, ownership of the animal will be transferred to the shelter, which can then put it up for adoption.

If the defendant is found innocent, the law states the animals and amount spent for care be returned to the individual, according to The Times Tribune.

The law defines reasonable costs of care as being up to $15 a day for each animal seized, as well as treatments deemed necessary by a veterinarian The Times Tribune reports.

“Pennsylvania shelters and state and local agencies are already overburdened with the cost of basic animal care,” Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director of The Humane Society of the United States, told VegNews, a vegan lifestyle publication.

“Large scale rescues were straining the budgets of small humane organizations around the state, and this law provides them much needed relief.”