Newsflash

To:  Executive Director, PA Senate Agriculture Committee

From:  Darin Cox, President, PA Federation Of Dog Clubs

Re:  S1289, Dog Law Modernization Act

 

The PA Federation of Dog Clubs is generally pleased with the changes proposed in S1289.  Among the positive changes we see:

·         Removal of the price difference between altered and unaltered dogs.

·         Maintaining the licensing threshold at 4 months but adding language requiring immediate licensing upon change of ownership.

·         Creation of an online method for obtaining a dog license.

·         Requiring the creation of a statewide dog license database.

·         Eliminating non-profit kennels and clearly defining humane society or SPCA kennels.

·         Increase in all license fees to return the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to solvency.

We do have a few questions or requests for clarification:

·         In the Dangerous Dog Law, can an owner or keeper of a dog be found criminal guilty of harboring a dangerous dog on the first attack?  If there is no known history of a dog committing an unprovoked attack, how can an owner or keeper be accused of harboring a dangerous dog?  We can understand finding the dog to be dangerous on the first incident.

·         Regarding the $25 fee for a Rescue Network Home license.  If a home owner has a dog on the premises for less than 24 hours as part of a transport relay into and out of the Commonwealth, would such a home be required to obtain the Rescue Network Home license.

The PA Federation of Dog Clubs looks forward to working with the Legislature on these changes and would like to be included in any discussions about potential amendments that will undoubtedly be offered to S1289. 

            The Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs supports and concurs with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding that the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement in his Department is underfunded and in danger of going into the red.

 

            What he left out is, in 2009, the Legislature and the Rendell Administration balanced the budget by taking money from special accounts outside the General Fund.  They took over $3 Million from the Dog Law Restricted Account.  Ever since, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has been struggling to make its budget balance.  They have reduced staffing levels and not replaced equipment that is past its prime.  The PA Federation of Dog Clubs filed suit in Federal Court with a number of other animal related organizations seeking to have the funding restored but we did not prevail.

           We do not believe the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement currently has the resources they need to do a licensing enforcement sweep to generate the new funding.  Additional personnel and new equipment are needed for this kind of operation.

            We support House Bill 526 and Senate Bill 232 with the caveat that the age threshold for requiring a license not be lowered to 8 weeks.  Instead, we seek an amendment that would leave the threshold at 3 months or when the dog is transferred to a new owner(s), whichever comes first.  The stated goal of changing the threshold was to increase the compliance with the licensing requirement, since many new dog owners seem not to be aware of it.  By amending the language to require licensing at the time of transfer we accomplish the same goal without requiring licensing of puppies a shelter, rescue or breeder does not intend to keep.

            We would also support adding language to increase the fees for all classes of kennel licenses.  Since the majority of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement’s activities revolve around inspection of kennels, it only makes sense that they bear some of the burden of increased funding as well.

            New legislation should also strengthen the protection of the Dog Law Restricted Account so future Legislatures cannot easily raid it to balance the General Fund budget again.

            The PA Federation of Dog Clubs represents dozens of canine related organizations across the Commonwealth.  Members of our member clubs are hobby breeders, enthusiasts, dog trainers, dog sport competitors and rescuers.  Even though these constituents will be hardest hit by increasing the fees discussed above, we recognize the need for adequate enforcement of our Dog Law and the corresponding need to fund the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.  We call on our members to contact their PA Legislators to add their voices in support of HB526 and SB232.