The state bureau responsible for inspecting dog kennels, handling dangerous dogs and curtailing the use of puppy mills is quickly running out of money, even though a proposed modest fee increase for dog licenses could solve the problem.
Legislation in both the state House and Senate that would raise the dog license fees has sat in committee for nearly a year. The Legislature should approve the fee increases for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and put an end to the financial uncertainty.
The bureau, part of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, inspects the state’s 2,600 dog kennels twice a year, in addition to other duties, work that is divided among 41 wardens. The majority of its funding, nearly 90%, comes from the sale of dog licenses, which are typically sold through county treasurers’ offices.
The problem, according to bureau officials, is that the license fees — $6.50 for a dog that is spayed or neutered and $8 for those that are not — have not been raised since 1996. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the bureau will soon run out of money.
The proposed increases in the license fees are far from outrageous — $10 a year, or a lifetime license fee of $49. Discounts would be available for those over 65 or those with disabilities.
An Agriculture Department spokesperson said the fee increase would sufficiently fund the bureau, which has an annual budget of about $8 million.
Opponents think the dog bureau should first do a better job of identifying and licensing the 1 million unlicensed dogs in the state, which would make a fee increase unnecessary.
Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of the situation. The bureau has already made cuts in staff and operations, making it even more difficult to undertake a program of identifying unlicensed dogs.
And there are a host of duties the bureau performs beyond just inspecting kennels, such as monitoring dangerous dogs, investigating complaints of illegal kennels and returning stray dogs to their owners. It also provides grants to shelters that take in stray dogs and has a program to compensate farmers for attacks on livestock.
The proposed fare increases are reasonable, especially in light of the fact there haven’t been any increases in more than 20 years. The Legislature should stop stalling and approve the new rates so that dog law wardens can continue to do their jobs.