PA’s Dog Law updates take effect this week, including increased fines and safety requirements

23 January 2024- Beginning today, Pennsylvania’s updated Dog Law takes effect to increase public safety in communities, add consumer protections for those who buy or adopt dogs, strengthen requirements for all types of kennels, and increase penalties for those who violate the law and put people and dogs at risk.  

Pennsylvania’s Dog Law received a bipartisan upgrade thanks to Governor Josh Shapiro’s signing on October 23, 2023. Sponsored by Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee chair Senator Elder Vogel, the initiative saw broad bipartisan support, and was encouraged by animal welfare advocates, kennel owners, county treasurers and local law enforcement agencies. The majority of the changes begin January 21, 2024, with the increase in new dog license fees beginning February 1, 2024.

“Today is the start of a brighter future for our canine companions in the state of Pennsylvania,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Under the updated Dog Law, we have secured positive changes that will empower dog wardens to enact greater protections for our families and communities, curb dishonest breeding, and safeguard dog health across the Commonwealth.”

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

Before the changes, kennel fees had been frozen for nearly 60 years, and individual license prices remained unchanged for 30 years, severely straining funds to support enforcement of Pennsylvania’s Dog Law.

Beginning January 21, the following measures take effect:

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

Beginning February 1st, the following measures will be enacted:

  • The fee for an annual dog license will increase to $8.70 on February 1, 2024 for all dogs. Licenses purchased between December 1, 2023 and January 31, 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 February 1, 2024. Lifetime licenses purchased between December 1, 2023 and January 31, 2024 will be available at the prior rate of $31.70 for neutered animals, and $51.70 for others.

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.