Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding speaks during a press conference, detailing the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement’s impending funding crisis, the implications for public safety and animal welfare, and how the crisis can be averted, on the capitol steps on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. ( Commonwealth Media Services photo)
State agriculture officials said Thursday that they’re holding out hope for a long-term, legislative solution to the imperiled Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement’s ongoing funding crisis, despite a proposed $3 million departmental transfer in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
If the transfer from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s general fund is approved as a part of the final state spending plan that takes effect on July 1, it would provide a badly needed shot in the arm for an office that’s charged with inspecting kennels and breeders, returning lost dogs, and handling dangerous dogs, across the commonwealth, but has struggled to meet that mandate.
Even so, state officials are again sounding the alarm that short-term solutions are not enough.
The intra-agency transfer money is a “temporary, stop-gap measure that will allow the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to maintain basic operations,” Agriculture Department spokesperson Shannon Powers told the Capital-Star.
The dog license fee in Pennsylvania, which has not increased in more than two decades, has left the bureau unable to perform its duties, funding only basic operations.
State officials, including Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, have spent years advocating for an increase in dog license fees from $6.50 to $10 for an altered dog, in an effort to support the bureau’s work.
But even with the proposed $3 million transfer from the department’s general fund, the department says the bureau is in a precarious position.
“It will not fund the level of oversight that is critical to ensure that dogs in Pennsylvania kennels are safe and well cared for, keep dangerous dogs off the streets and keep puppy mills out of Pennsylvania,” Powers said, adding that the funding will not allow the bureau to fill 14 dog warden vacancies, either.
The department is still seeking a permanent solution to the bureau’s funding woes with the Legislature, despite several failed attempts to get a bill across the finish line, according to Powers.
“The permanent and practical solution to the bureau’s financial crisis is a small increase to the price of a dog license,” Powers told the Capital-Star. “The department is grateful to the many legislators on both sides of the aisle who have supported a proposed license fee increase, and will continue to work with the General Assembly to seek a lasting solution for Pennsylvania’s dogs.”
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