Pennsylvania Dog Law Overhaul: A Boost for Public Safety and Consumer Protection

Adopting a Pet© RapidEye / Getty Images Signature / Canva

HARRISBURG, PA — Last week, Pennsylvania’s updated Dog Law, aimed at enhancing public safety and consumer protection measures, officially took effect. The changes are expected to strengthen requirements for kennels, increase penalties for law violations, and add safeguards for consumers purchasing or adopting dogs.

Governor Josh Shapiro signed the bipartisan upgrade to Pennsylvania’s Dog Law on October 23, 2023. The initiative, sponsored by Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee chair Senator Elder Vogel, enjoyed widespread support from both sides of the aisle, as well as animal welfare advocates, kennel owners, county treasurers, and local law enforcement agencies.

This overhaul comes at a crucial time, as kennel fees had been frozen for nearly 60 years, and individual license prices remained unchanged for 30 years. These outdated rates put considerable strain on funding for enforcement of Pennsylvania’s Dog Law.

Several new measures have now come into play, including the requirement for kennels and shelters offering dogs for sale or adoption to include their license number in advertisements. Kennels selling or adopting out dogs are also now responsible for disclosing breeder information, vaccination and medical documentation, and any known bite attacks on a human or domestic animal.

In an effort to control disease outbreaks, dogs imported into Pennsylvania kennels must be isolated for at least 14 days. Fines for unlicensed dogs will now range from $100 to $500, plus court costs. Criminal penalties for all other dog law violations have increased to $500 to $1,000 for summary offenses and $1,000 to $5,000 for misdemeanor offenses, plus court costs.

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For dangerous dogs, the annual registration fee has doubled from $500 to $1,000. Furthermore, owners of dogs already declared dangerous that attack again will be required to find and pay a kennel to house the dog during court proceedings, ensuring community safety until a final determination is made.

Starting February 1, annual dog license fees will increase to $8.70 for all dogs. Lifetime license fees will also rise to $52.70. However, discounts are available for qualifying senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Each license fee includes $1.70 for postage and administrative costs, which stays in the local county.

Dog licenses, which are required in Pennsylvania, help make dogs readily identifiable if they are lost. While many dogs have microchips, a visible license on their collar can help ensure they are returned home rather than ending up in a shelter.

These changes to Pennsylvania’s Dog Law reflects a broader trend toward increased regulation and oversight in the pet industry, and may serve as a benchmark for similar initiatives in other states. Pennsylvania’s dog owners and prospective pet adopters should familiarize themselves with these new rules to ensure compliance and take full advantage of the enhanced protections they offer.

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