Dog Licensing Bill Waits to Reach Finish Line

Dog Licensing Bill Waits to Reach Finish Line

Written by Robert Swift, Staff Reporter

HARRISBURG (July 19) – Dog oversight legislation five years in the making will have to wait longer to be enacted with the state budget impasse changing session schedules.

The legislation — Senate Bill 746 — to increase the dog license fee for the first time in more than 25 years and address other enforcement issues is close to final passage.

The Senate approved it 43-7 last month. The bill cleared the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee with no amendments by a 17-3 vote on June 21. SB746 is now in the House Appropriations Committee.

The Senate and House aren’t scheduled to return until mid-September at this time with a state budget package not finished due to a partisan dispute over school voucher funding. Both chambers can be recalled to break the impasse before those return dates.

“We’ve been working on this bill for five years,” said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, majority chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Pashinksi said passing the bill is a top priority.

He said the immediate goal is to keep the bill free of amendments in order to maintain the bipartisan work that advanced the legislation to this stage.

“This (dog bill) is just one of many bills we will be working on as soon as we return to session,” said Elizabeth Rementer, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery.

SB746 would set the annual dog license at $8 and charge owners $80 (currently $51.50) for a lifetime license. State residents aged 65 and older and individuals with disabilities would pay $6 for an annual license or $50 for a lifetime license. The bill would increase kennel inspection fees by 25 percent for each kennel classification and address other issues, including clarifying how a determination of a dangerous dog is made, revoking kennel licenses when the kennel owner is charged with animal cruelty, requiring more transparency in dog sale ads about the source of a dog. The state Agriculture Department and animal humane groups have pressed for a number of years for a license hike to support the cash-strapped Dog Law Enforcement Bureau within the department.

Pashinski said the dog enforcement bureau operated with its own licensing and kennel fee revenue for more than 100 years and it’s only been in recent years that state tax dollars have gone to support it.

Commenting on the Senate passage vote, the bill sponsor Senate Agriculture Majority Chairman Elder Vogel, R-Beaver, said the bureau has been struggling over the past several years to cover basic operations and fill critical warden vacancies. Vogel stressed SB746 takes steps to increase dog licensing compliance. Only 50 percent of dogs are now licensed, he added.

SB746 would require that a dog be licensed at three month or age or the point of transfer to a new owner, whichever occurs first. It would require an online licensing website in each county and create a statewide licensing database.