HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s dog law enforcement has been struggling for several years, and new legislation introduced by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-47) is focused on solving the problems.
“It has been more than 25 years since statutory dog license fees were raised and the last time kennel fees were increased was nearly 60 years ago, with both being major sources of operating funds for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (BDLE),” Vogel said. “BDL has been operating in deficit for a number of years and requires an annual cash transfer to continue operations, which has resulted in the office being understaffed and unable to enforce our state’s canine 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 of protecting Pennsylvanians and their dogs. The department notes that kennels do not receive as many inspections as is appropriate and that illegal kennels are likely to thrive without wardens proactively checking for them. Additionally, the office takes longer to respond to public complaints, including dangerous dog attacks, which can result in those complaints being escalated to local law enforcement.
Senate Bill 1289 will streamline annual and lifetime dog licenses, increasing fees appropriately to $8 for an annual license or $80 for a lifetime license for both male and female dogs, though Pennsylvania residents age 65 or older and people with disabilities $6 for an annual license or $50 for a lifetime license.
As kennel inspections are a significant part of the BDLE’s work, the bill also proposes a 25% increase for each kennel classification. In five years, the Minister of Agriculture will be given the power to increase these charges, but only based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
With only about 50% of Pennsylvania’s dogs being licensed, more needs to be done to improve licensing compliance. Therefore, legislation dictates that a dog must be admitted at three months of age or older (current law) or at the time of transfer to a new owner, whichever comes first. It will also launch an online licensing website for counties that currently don’t offer one, increasing convenience for their residents. A nationwide licensing database will also be created to modernize the information and provide nationwide access to law enforcement agencies.
SB 1289 also seeks to clarify the “dangerous dog” provisions, require kennels to notify the Department of Agriculture of updates to their type or classification, update Rescue Network kennel licenses and related documentation of foreign dogs, revoke kennel licenses if the kennel with accused of cruelty to animals, demanding transparency in advertisements of both a dog’s origin and seller’s licensing information, ensuring that proof of license is provided when required by the relevant authorities, and increasing criminal penalties for violators.
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