‘Overburdened and underfunded’: Shapiro signs bill to save Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement

By: - October 23, 2023 6:30 pm

A very good dog. (Getty Images)

Pennsylvania dog owners will pay a bit more to license their canine companions beginning 90 days from Monday, Oct. 23. The increases are “long overdue” for Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, which has not had a funding boost in more than 25 years.  

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed the Dog Law Modernization Act into law on Monday, gradually increasing the cost of a dog license from $5 to $7 in its first year. The fee will increase another $2 in the second year to a total of $9, with a final increase of $1 in 2027 regardless of the animal’s spay or neuter status. 

Lifetime license fees will cost owners $49, a $19 increase from the current $30. Pennsylvanians 65 and older and those with disabilities will receive a discount of $2 on annual licenses and $16 on lifetime licenses. 

The act will also increase kennel license fees for the first time in nearly 60 years by 25%. 

The fee increases are necessary legislative supporters and advocates have said, to create a self-sustaining state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, which relies on dog license fees to fund its operations. 

In recent years, the Bureau has struggled to cover its basic operating expenses, such as salaries for its dog wardens, and even required a funding transfer in 2022 from the Department of Agriculture to maintain minimum operations. 

Despite proposed $3M transfer in Wolf’s budget, Dog Law Bureau would remain in deficit, Ag. Dept. says

The bill, Senate Bill 746, was introduced by state Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), who chairs the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, after years of stalled legislation and failed attempts to address the funding deficit.

Vogel has attributed this bill’s success to compromise and collaboration with state agencies, animal welfare advocates and other policymakers. 

“I have worked diligently with the Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders to ensure updates to our Dog Law would benefit the BDLE and prioritize resident and animal safety,” Vogel said in a statement celebrating the bill’s passage. 

The General Assembly’s Animal Protection Caucus, a bipartisan body including lawmakers from both chambers, said the Act increasing funding to the Bureau for the first time in more than 20 years is “long overdue.”

“This legislation will finally stabilize the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, which for too long has been overburdened and underfunded. It modernizes the dog licensing process and provides more support for the overwhelmed agency, while ensuring those who break the law are properly punished.” Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester), co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, said.

Efforts to update Pennsylvania’s dog law and raise fees to meet the current need have benefited from a rare showing of bipartisan support in the General Assembly. 

“These enhancements to Pennsylvania’s Dog Law provide long overdue modernizations and enforcement mechanisms,” Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery) said. “This legislation provides the resources necessary for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to continue their vitally important work of protecting the animals of the Commonwealth.”

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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.