HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s enforcement of its dog laws is, and for several years has been, in trouble, and legislation newly introduced by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-47) is focused on fixing the problems.
“It’s been more than 25 years since statutory dog license fees have been raised and the last time dog kennel fees were increased was nearly 60 years ago, with both being primary sources of operating funds for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement (BDLE),” said Vogel. “BDLE has been functioning with a deficit for a number of years and annually requires a transfer of funds to continue operating, all of which has caused the bureau to be understaffed and unable to enforce our state’s dog laws as intended.”
According to the Department of Agriculture, the BDLE is currently operating with 14 vacancies and is unable to fully and effectively fulfill its mission to protect Pennsylvanians and their dogs. The department notes kennels are not receiving as many inspections as would be appropriate, and illegal kennels are likely flourishing without wardens proactively seeking them out. On top of that, it’s taking longer for the bureau to respond to public complaints, including dangerous dog attacks, which can cause these complaints to be redirected to local law enforcement.
Senate Bill 1289 will streamline annual and lifetime dog licenses and reasonably increase fees to $8 for an annual license or $80 for a lifetime license for male and female dogs, though Pennsylvania residents 65 years of age or older and persons with disabilities would pay $6 for an annual license or $50 for a lifetime license.
Additionally, since kennel inspections are a significant portion of the work done by the BDLE, the bill proposes a 25% increase for each kennel classification. Beginning in five years, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture will be granted the authority to increase these fees, but only by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
With only approximately 50% of dogs in Pennsylvania licensed, more also needs to be done to improve licensing compliance, so the legislation will require a dog be licensed at three months of age or older (current law) or the point of transfer to a new owner, whichever occurs first. It will also establish an online licensing website for counties that do not currently offer one, thus increasing convenience for their residents. A statewide licensing database will also be created to modernize the information and provide accessibility to law enforcement statewide.
SB 1289 also seeks to clarify “dangerous dog” determinations, require that kennels notify the Department of Agriculture of updates to their type or classification, update rescue network kennel licensing and related documentation of foreign dogs, revoke kennel licenses when the kennel is charged with animal cruelty, require transparency of both the source of a dog and the identifying seller’s license information in advertisements, ensure proof of licensure is provided when requested by the appropriate authorities and increase criminal penalties for law violators.
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