The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Dog Law Enforcement Office is frequently referred to as “Dog Law”, but what is it? According to PDA “The Dog Law Enforcement Office is responsible for ensuring the welfare of breeding dogs and puppies in commercial breeding kennels. The Office also regulates activities pertaining to dogs that are classified as dangerous, and oversees annual licensure and rabies vaccinations for dogs.”
PA used to be known as the “Puppy Mill Capitol of the East”, but in 2008 Gov. Rendell signed into law one of the strongest dog laws in the country. It was aimed at protecting dogs in commercial breeding kennels by providing them with more cage space, access to outdoor exercise areas, two yearly kennel inspections instead of one and mandatory veterinary checks.
When the law was passed Dog Law was the “Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement”, yet when the Corbett administration took over in 2011, the Bureau was changed to an “Office.” The Special Deputy Secretary for the Bureau, that Rendell had appointed back in 2006 was replaced last July by Lynn Diehl, a banker with no law enforcement experience. She supervises the Dog Wardens who make up the enforcement team, three of which are Kennel Compliance Specialists in charge of inspecting the commercial kennels. Since Diehl was hired more than 10 wardens have left and a top administrator was fired. Ideally there should be one warden for every county, but several wardens cover more than one county due to many leaving and none being replaced.
The Dog Law Advisory Board met for the first time in 16 months last Wednesday, the first time since Corbett took office. According to Diehl, only 17 of the 52 commercial kennels are in compliance with the new law and wardens still don’t have or aren’t using equipment necessary to check for proper ventilation in kennels.
In 2009 $4 million was removed from the Dog Law restricted fund to help bridge the budget deficit caused by the recession. These funds were a vital component in implementing the new regulations required by the new dog law and have never been replaced. Dog license sales along with kennel licenses help fund Dog Law. However, little is being done to promote the sale of dog licenses and many dog owners don’t know they need a dog license. By law, any dog 3 months of age and older must be licensed or face a $300 fine.
According to the 2011 Dog Law Annual Report it issued 2182 kennel licenses, down 64 from 2010, and 920,797 individual dog licenses, down 26, 759 from 2010. The 2011 Annual Report states:
Recommendations for 2012
The Dog Law Enforcement Office’s main focus for 2012 is to restore the solvency of the Dog Law Restricted Account. Enforcement of the dog law must be maintained and the increased sale of dog licenses is vital to financial future of the office.