Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Mike Schmidt, stands with Cappy, the Capitol Police public service dog, following a news conference detailing the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcements impending funding crisis, the implications for public safety and animal welfare, and how the crisis can be averted, on the Capitol steps on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.
(The Center Square) – State officials said Wednesday that raising licensing fees could help Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement avoid an impending financial crisis.
“Dog licenses are a simple, inexpensive measure that funds our work to return lost dogs to their owners, ensure that dogs in kennels are humanely treated, and communities kept safe from dangerous strays and irresponsible dog owners,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Simply put, that funding has run out. A small fee increase for the privilege of owning a dog can help protect those very dogs from harm.”
Current law requires residents license dogs 12 weeks and older for $6.50 annually or $31.50 for a lifetime. The fees, which make up 90 percent of the bureau’s funding, haven’t been raised in 24 years.
That’s why both Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, and Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, have each sponsored companion legislation – Senate Bill 663 and House Bill 1504 – that would increase the fees to $10 and $49, respectively.
“The bureau offers important services that need funding,” Schwank said. “Without intervention, this department will lose its ability to function. This puts puppies, dogs and people at risk.”
The legislation would also lower the licensing age from 12 weeks to 8 weeks, when most puppies are transferred to new owners, to increase awareness of the legal requirement.
“Without the service of the Bureau of Dog Law, we could see packs of stray dogs wreaking havoc in small communities, which was a problem we used to have,” Pashinski said.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the legislation builds upon a special report his office released in February that concluded the increase in licenses issued over the years were no longer enough to offset the bureau’s costs.
In addition to managing stray dogs, the bureau monitors more than 500 dogs on a statewide database of dangerous animals, compensates shelters for housing strays without licenses and farmers for livestock lost to stray dogs and coyotes, enforces rabies vaccination requirements, licenses and inspects kennels, and investigates contagious disease outbreaks among puppies and dogs in breeding and commercial kennels.
Without the increase, the bureau’s operations will be in the red come September, DePasquale noted.
“The General Assembly has made some important changes to animal protection laws, but too little attention has been given to making sure dog law enforcement is adequately funded to protect the health and safety of all dogs,” he said. “We must make sure our dog wardens have the resources they need to do an effective job.”