Harrisburg, Pa. – There's a financial crisis which could have drastic impacts on Pennsylvania's canine population! The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, which protects both dogs and citizens in Pennsylvania, has run out of funds.
The Bureau has been struggling for some time, and on Wednesday, Second Lady Gisele Fetterman and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding made the grim announcement.
During the announcement, Fetterman and Redding emphasized the need for new legislation to solve this problem.
The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement's work includes cracking down on illegal kennels, registering and tracking dangerous dogs, helping reunite lost licensed dogs with their owners, finding homes or shelters for unlicensed dogs, and ensuring the health and wellbeing of dogs in the Commonwealth.
"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."
The Department of Agriculture has been pushing for a slight increase to dog license fees to keep the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement afloat, but no legislation was ever passed.
"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."
In the state of Pennsylvania, all dogs aged three months 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 an identification tattoo. Discounts on dog licenses are available for qualifying older adults and people with disabilities.
The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has never been supported by tax dollars. It has always solely been supported by dog licensing fees - until now. For the first time since 1893, the Bureau is partially being funded by taxpayer dollars to keep the minimum mandated services intact.
In an effort to alleviate the problem, the Governor's proposed budget includes a transfer of $1.2 million for 2020-2021 expenses and a $1.5 million transfer for 2021-2022 expenses.
In addition, State Senator Judy Schwank and State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski have introduced Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 526 to raise dog license fees. The increase is in line with standard inflation and should provide adequate funding for the continued enforcement for humane treatment of dogs and investigation/tracking of dangerous dogs.
The proposed fee increase could bring the annual license fee for a spayed/neutered dog from $6.50 to $10 annually, and require puppies to be licensed at 8 weeks of age when they are legally allowed to be sold. This requirement intends to increase license sales.
"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."