Proposal to ‘modernize’ Pa. dog law, increase fees, gains support from Ag officials, advocates

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who has frequently sounded the alarm on the bureau’s situation, wrote a letter to the Senate committee urging lawmakers to take legislative action this budget season

By: - June 3, 2022 2:49 pm

Pennsylvania Dog license application form (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

(*This story was updated at 3:17 p.m. on 6/3/22 to include comments from Kristen Donmoyer, the director of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.)

Another bill to return the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to financial solvency is being introduced in the state Senate this session after several failed legislative attempts to boost funding for the bureau.

State Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Beaver, who chairs the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, said Thursday that his bill will “modernize” Pennsylvania’s dog law and “ensure it is being executed as it was intended.”

In a memo seeking legislative support for his proposal, Vogel said the legislation was drafted “at the request of” the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees the struggling bureau. 

The bill would raise the annual dog license fee – the bureau’s source of funding – from $6.50 to $8, and from $51.50 to $80 for a lifetime license for male and female dogs. Pennsylvanians 65 years of age or older and persons with disabilities would pay $6 for an annual license or $50 for a lifetime license for male and female dogs. 

The proposal also includes a 25 percent fee increase for each kennel license classification, which has not increased since 1965. It also would give the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to raise fees in accordance with the consumer price index. 

Pa. Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement ‘unable to fulfill its mission’ state officials say, citing lack of funding increases

In the memo, Vogel wrote that including a fee increase for kennels made sense because “kennel inspections are a significant portion of the work done by this Bureau.”

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who has frequently sounded the alarm on the bureau’s situation, wrote a letter to the Senate committee urging lawmakers to take legislative action this budget season. 

“There is one legislative priority that we are seeking for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year that still needs your support,” Redding wrote, “fully funding the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement through increased fees for individual dog licenses and kennel licenses.”

In an email to the Capital-Star, the department said that it “is fully supportive” of Vogel’s bill and is “hopeful” about its future. 

“Senator Vogel’s Dog Law Modernization Act is a comprehensive package, and the department is hopeful it will reach the finish line,” Agriculture spokesperson Katie McLaughlin said. “This proposal not only increases individual dog license fees, but it also addresses licensing fees for the commonwealth’s kennels.”

McLaughlin also said that the proposal contains elements from bills previously introduced by State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, and Luzerne County Democratic Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski  – SB 232 and HB 526 – which have not moved beyond their respective chambers’ committees. 

McLaughlin added that “industry stakeholder groups have been actively engaged in crafting this legislation.”

Dog law Senate bill ‘unlikely’ to move forward, aide to top Pa. senator says

Kristen Tullo, the Pennsylvania state director at The Humane Society of the United States, said that without a change in funding for the bureau “this may be the last year that we are in a state with licensing and inspections of dog kennels dog kennels and with the ability to investigate and shut down unlicensed kennels and to crack down on kennels that repeatedly fail to meet the basic needs of dogs in their care with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement on life support.”

Tullo said that due to the need for oversight of breeders and kennels, the HSUS supports legislative attempts to “adequately fund the bureau.”

*Kristen Donmoyer, director of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, said the bureau “fully supports” Vogel’s bill. 

“The past year especially, has been incredibly difficult to maintain operations and provide the quality services that the public and our furry family members deserve due to severe staffing shortages and continuously increasing workload,” Donmoyer said. “The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement applauds Senator Vogel for his willingness to find a solution to the bureau’s critical funding crisis. … We look forward to getting fully staffed and exceeding the demands of the industry and all Pennsylvanians human and canine.”

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.

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