HARRISBURG, PA — Second Lady Gisele Fetterman joined Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding recently to stress the urgent need for legislative action to protect the dogs of Pennsylvania.
“We’ve been warning for some time now that without legislative action to increase the dog license fee to fund the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement that protections wouldn’t be able to continue at the same level of service for the dogs and citizens of Pennsylvania,” said Redding. “It’s officially happened, after 25 years with no inflation to the dog license fee the bureau is out of funds and we’re seeing the unfortunate, disturbing results.
“The bureau has been unable to fill vacancies, which is stretching wardens thin, pulling them from other regions to cover more territory, resulting in fewer kennel inspections and an inability to keep up with public complaints about strays, vicious dogs, or illegal kennels,” said Redding.
For several years the Department of Agriculture has been pushing for a minimal dog license fee increase to keep the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement funded to continue their work to crack down on illegal kennels, register and track dangerous dogs, and ensure the health and wellbeing of dogs across the commonwealth. Now, due to a lack of legislative action, the bureau is out of money and things are beginning to fall to the wayside as a result.
“It’s heartbreaking to think of the abuse and neglect that overlooked dogs could face without the proper enforcement of dog laws,” said Fetterman. “Our pup, Levi, was chained outside for every long hour of every day for the first four years of his life. He was rescued because somebody cared about him, and because the resources were there to save him.”
All dogs 3 months of age and older are required to be licensed. The fee for an annual dog license is $6.50, or $8.50 if the animal is not spayed or neutered. Lifetime licenses are available for dogs that have permanent identification such as a microchip or tattoo. Discounts are available for qualifying older adults and persons with disabilities.
Traditionally, taxpayer dollars have never supported the work of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and they’ve been solely supported through dog licensing dollars for their work to:
- Inspect Pennsylvania’s kennels and ensure the health and wellbeing of the dogs that spend their lives there;
- Investigate and prosecute illegal kennels and bad actors;
- Protect the public by monitoring dangerous dogs and investigating dog bites; and
- Reunite licensed lost dogs with their families and help unlicensed lost dogs find shelter.
As a result of the Republican-controlled legislature’s inertness on the issue, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is now being partially funded by taxpayer dollars for the first time since its inception in 1893. With the bureau currently experiencing a funding shortage, taxpayer dollars are being redirected to the bureau to keep the minimum mandated services up and running. Included in the Governor’s proposed budget is a supplemental transfer of $1.2 million for 2020-21 in addition to a transfer for 2021-22 of $1.5 million.
State Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and state Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) have introduced two corresponding pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 526, to raise the dog license fee by a minimal amount that would adequately fund the bureau to continue protecting both dogs and the public in Pennsylvania.
The proposed fee increase is in line with standard inflation and will fund the work of wardens to ensure humane treatment of dogs and investigation and tracking of dangerous dogs.
A minimal fee increase – for example for a spayed/neutered dog would increase from $6.50 to $10 annually – will benefit Pennsylvanians at large. The bills will also require puppies to be licensed at 8 weeks or the same age they are legally allowed to be sold. This efficiency is expected to increase license sales of puppies and further stabilize the bureau.
Without immediate action to pass a fee increase, the well-being of canines across the state is as stake. Since 2008, Pennsylvania has established some of the most stringent requirements for protecting dogs in commercial kennels. Without this legislation, the bureau will not have the resources needed to continue this work. Without this legislation, Pennsylvania’s dogs and puppies are a great risk for mistreatment due to lack of oversight.
“The dogs of Pennsylvania need someone to look out for them, and more often than not that someone is a dog warden,” added Redding. “This is a simple fix, and I hope that for the sake of public safety and for the love of dogs this small fee increase can be urgently addressed before dogs and Pennsylvanians have to suffer. We’re beyond grateful for leaders like Senator Schwank and Representative Pashinski, who have introduced the vehicles to get this done.”
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