Massive overhaul to Pennsylvania Dog Law signed into law

25 October 2023- Governor Josh Shapiro signed Senate Bill 746 yesterday, updating Pennsylvania’s Dog Law to improve public safety in communities statewide; improve conditions for dogs in breeding kennels, day cares, and shelters; protect those who buy or adopt dogs in Pennsylvania; and help prevent the spread of infectious disease among dogs.

The bill, sponsored by Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chair Senator Elder Vogel, had broad bipartisan support and was widely supported by animal welfare advocates, kennel owners, local law enforcement agencies, county treasurers, and others. Changes to the law take effect after 90 days.

“Pennsylvanians have made it clear that they expect kennels, breeders, and shelters to be held to high standards,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “They want their communities to be safe from stray and dangerous dogs. They want owners to be held responsible when their dog attacks, and they want unscrupulous breeders to be shut down. The Shapiro Administration, working with both parties in the legislature, has made commonsense changes to the dog law to keep our communities, our families, and our dogs safe and healthy.”

Dog license sales fund Pennsylvania dog wardens’ work upholding high standards of care in kennels; shutting down illegal kennels; and keeping communities safer by holding dangerous dog owners responsible. Kennel fees had not increased in nearly 60 years and the price of a license had not increased in nearly 30 years, severely straining funds to support enforcement of Pennsylvania’s Dog Law.

Dog licenses, required in Pennsylvania, help make dogs readily identifiable if they are lost. Even if a dog has a chip, a license on their collar is clearly visible, and helps ensure they make it home rather than ending up in a shelter.

Dog wardens license and inspect boarding and breeding kennels and shelters across the state to uphold the standards, which are among the nation’s highest.

Measures in the updated law include:

  • All dogs in Pennsylvania will now be required to be licensed at the time of purchase (legal at eight weeks), or by three months old, whichever comes first.
  • Those selling or offering dogs for adoption will be required to provide a dog license application along with the dog. 
  • The fee for an annual dog license will increase to $8.70 on March 1, 2024 for all dogs. Licenses purchased between December 1, 2023 and March 1, 2024 will be available at the prior rate of $6.70 for spayed or neutered dogs, and $8.70 for others.
  • Lifetime license fees will increase to $52.70 on March 1, 2024. Lifetime licenses purchased between December 1, 2023 and March 1, 2024 will be available at the prior rate of $31.70 for neutered animals, and $51.70 for others.
  • The law enables the Sec. of Agriculture to increase fees again by $2 on December 1, 2025, and $1 on December 1, 2027.
  • Fines for unlicensed dogs will range from $100 to $500, plus court costs.
  • The criminal penalties for all other violations of the dog law have increased to $500 to $1,000 for summary offenses and $1,000 to $5,000 for misdemeanor offenses plus court costs.
  • The annual registration for harboring a dangerous dog will increase from $500 to $1,000 for any dog deemed dangerous after 90-days.
  • 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, to ensure the community remains safe until a final determination is made.
  • License fees for kennels will increase on March 1, 2024.  
  • Kennels and shelters that offer dogs for sale or adoption must include their kennel license number in advertisements.
  • Kennels selling or adopting dogs at retail to the public are responsible for disclosing breeder information, vaccination and medical documentation, and any known bite attacks on a human or a domestic animal.
  • Dogs imported into PA kennels must be isolated for at least 14 days.  

Licenses can be purchased through Pennsylvania’s county treasurers. Lifetime licenses are available for dogs with a microchip or tattoo. Discounts are available for qualifying senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Each license fee includes $1.70 postage and administrative costs, which stays in the county where the license was purchased.