House Bill 1463 aims to restore the PA Dog Law Restricted Account to sound financial health by increasing individual dog license fees.  The money in the account comes from licensing fees and penalties for violations of the Dog Law.  No funds from the state’s budget are spent on Dog Law enforcement.  A number of years ago, $4 million was removed from the account to help balance the budget.  PFDC challenged this in Federal Court along with other groups, but we lost the court battle.   Ever since, the amount available to support the Dog Law functions has diminished.

 

The PFDC supports the goals of HB 1463 to ensure that the Dog Law functions are adequately funded and protected from encroachment.  However, we believe that some changes would make the bill even more equitable and remove current distinctions that have no enforcement impact.

PFDC believes that to be equitable, both individual dog licenses and kennel licenses should be increased - a position we have held since 2008.  We want Dog Law to be a self-supporting program and are concerned that income from kennel licenses may not cover all the costs of kennel inspections.  This reduces the amount of money available for other Dog Law activities, like providing funds for shelters that house stray dogs for the state, increasing staff to more appropriate past levels, prosecuting vicious dog cases, and increasing the percentage of dogs licensed.

The bill permits the PA Department of Agriculture to set license fees through regulation, rather than rely on changes to the statutes.  Political considerations make getting any change to license fees through the legislature very difficult.  Our current fees are outdated and among the lowest in the country. 

We continue to oppose the differentiation in license fees between neutered or spayed and intact dogs.  There is no difference in the enforcement burden related to whether a dog is capable of breeding and believe that the policy origin for the distinction is no longer valid.  This is implicitly recognized in the Dog Law by requiring licensing of rescue groups that import animals into the Commonwealth.  Each puppy born should be licensed at the required age.  Failure to register is an enforcement issue, the breeding of dogs is not and should not be penalized by increased fees through state regulation.  Furthermore, there is growing evidence that dogs with intact reproductive systems live longer than those that have them removed and that the health benefits from having a dog intact outweigh those associated with neutering and spaying dogs.

The proposed law eliminates an outdated fee provided to the judicial system associated with prosecuting Dog Law offenses.  We support this.  However, given the history of raiding the account that is not funded from the tax base, we urge the legislature to expand the protection of this fund so that money taken from license fees and penalties will only be used to fund Dog Law activities.  If the legislature does not provide that protection, we risk another raid on the resources for which we pay, and that are supposed to be dedicated to enforcement of the Dog Law thus ensuring the proper care of dogs in the Commonwealth.  The legislature needs to step up and take responsibility for fiscal soundness.

With the advances in computers, selling licenses online is more cost effective, more efficient, and makes the process easier, encouraging people to comply with the law.  The proposal will look into developing a unified, statewide online licensing system.  This should reduce the burden on County Treasurers, make information sharing easier, and provide better data for policy analysis.  This will aid Department staff in retrieving dog license information to enforce the dog law expeditiously and fairly, and to fund improvements in its operations by increasing the percentage of dogs licensed in the Commonwealth.

We urge you to contact your Legislator to express your support of the fee increases in HB1463, but request the amendments discussed above.