Bureau that protects dogs out of money

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania officials are barking about the urgent need for legislative action to protect the dogs of Pennsylvania.

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.

“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 Agriculture Secretary Russell 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.”

Redding said 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.

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
  • Reunite licensed lost dogs with their families and help unlicensed lost dogs find shelter

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 Gov. Tom Wolf’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.

In addition, two state legislators have proposed raising the dog license fee by a minimal amount—a spayed/neutered dog would increase from $6.50 to $10 annually—to 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.

Lawmakers say without immediate action to pass a fee increase, the well-being of canines across the state is as stake and 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.”