Half of Pa’s Dogs Are Unlicensed: What Local Lawmakers Plan To Do About It | state
Williamsport, Pennsylvania – About 1.5 million dogs in Pennsylvania have no tickets to return home if they get lost, and no way to find an owner if they bite or attack a person or other animal. Fifty percent of Pa’s dogs are unlicensed, according to Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Fred Strathmeyer.
Republican state representative Jeff Wheeland joined Strathmeyer, Lycoming County Commissioners and others at the Lycoming County SPCA on Wednesday to highlight legislation that would increase licensure rates.
Increasing the number of dogs allowed in the Commonwealth would help both resolve the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement funding crisis and alleviate the stress of dog-related incidents for the local government.
“In Pennsylvania, you can buy a dog at eight weeks old, but the legal age to license a dog is 12 weeks,” Strathmeyer said. “This results in an incredible loss for the office, as the time frame allows owners to set licenses aside.
“When you have that gap between eight weeks and three months, there’s a risk that things will happen to a dog that shouldn’t be allowed,” Lycoming County Commissioner Rick Mirabito said.
“We’re going to kill two birds with one stone with House Bill 526 and Senate Bill 232 – we’re going to close that gap and increase licensing rates and make sure the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has the funds it needs to.” continue with its vital activities. work, ”added Strathmeyer.
Currently, all dogs must be licensed at 12 weeks of age in Pennsylvania. A dog license serves as an identification for a lost dog and helps locate responsible owners in the event of an incident with the dog. Dogs without a license increase the workload and stress on local authorities and Pennsylvania animal shelters and rescues.
“The Lycoming County SPCA receives over 200 stray dogs in one year. Dogs rarely have a license tag to identify their owner, ”said SPCA Executive Director Victoria Stryker. “Only 76% of dogs are claimed by their owners. Licenses help us return dogs to their owners and fund our work. “
“Lycoming County Commissioners fully support these bills as they are essential to ensuring the safety of our neighborhoods and due diligence with our resources,” said Mirabito, “Without these bills we will be spending precious time and money of taxpayers to respond to dog-related incidents that should have been covered by state dog sitters. “
Selling dog licenses saves taxpayers money and dog owners collectively share the welfare of dogs across the Commonwealth and people who find a lost dog with a license on their collar are more likely to find the owner of the dog and to recognize that the dog is not a stray animal, but a beloved pet.
Annual dog licenses in Pennsylvania cost a minimal fee of $ 6.50, a fee that has remained the same for the past 25 years, while the national average has risen to $ 10 for an annual license.
While dog license fees have remained the same, staff costs for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement nearly doubled, with an increase of almost 88%. This increase in personnel costs occurs despite the reduction in staff and the lack of staff mission critical vacancies.
In addition to an increase in staff costs, the office saw an increase in operating costs of 172 percent. The gap between the revenue generated from dog licenses and the costs of providing services to Pennsylvanians cannot be denied.
Since its enactment in 1893, the enforcement of the Dog Act has been funded through the sale of dog licenses. Now that the office is experiencing a funding shortage, taxpayer dollars are being redirected to the office to keep the mandatory minimum services operational. For the 2020-2021 budget year, the office accepted an additional transfer of taxpayer dollars in the amount of $ 1.2 million. Another $ 1.5 million is proposed for 2021-2022.
State Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) presented two corresponding pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 526, to lower the legal licensing age to eight weeks and also increase dog license fees by a minimum amount that would adequately fund the office to continue to protect dogs and the public in Pennsylvania.
The proposed fee increase is in line with standard inflation and will fund the work of caretakers to ensure humane treatment of dogs and investigation and tracking of dangerous dogs.
A minimal increase in fees – say for a neutered / neutered dog would go from $ 6.50 to $ 10 per year – will benefit Pennsylvanians as a whole. The invoices will also require the puppies to be licensed at 8 weeks or the same age that they are legally permitted to be sold. This should increase puppy license sales and further stabilize the office.