PLAINS TWP. — State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski said Monday it’s been 21 years since the last time dog licensing fees were raised and now, more than ever, is the time for an increase.
Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, joined advocates from the Luzerne County SPCA to call for passage of his bill — H.B. 1463 — legislation that would stabilize the Dog Law Restricted Account and streamline the dog licensing process.
“Dog licensing fees go toward a number of valuable services in Pennsylvania, including securing stray dogs, inspecting licensed kennels and investigating dog bites,” Pashinski said. “The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has gone 21 years without raising the fee, but now, with the Dog Law Restricted Account close to operating in the red, it’s time to act to ensure these vital operations can continue to be performed.”
According to Kristen Donmoyer, director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Enforcement, Pashinski’s bill and a companion bill sponsored by Sen. Judy Schwank, would:
• Enable the state to continue cracking down on illegal kennels and bad actors.
• Make getting a dog license easier through a statewide online sales portal.
• Provide resources to protect the public from dangerous dogs.
To finance the improvements and to keep dogs and the public safe, the annual license fee for spayed or a neutered dogs would increase from $6.50 to $10, and the lifetime license fee would go from $31.50 to $47.
Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania State Director of the Humane Society, said dog lovers more than anyone understand the need to help all dogs and these license fees support all Dog Law activities, including unregulated kennel investigations.
“This legislation will help Pennsylvania become a more humane state for dogs and a state dog lovers can be proud to live in,” Tullo said. “I encourage everyone to contact their representative to support House Bill 1463 or their state senator to support the companion bill, Senate Bill 738.”
Pashinski said if nothing is done to increase the fees, licensing will be under-funded by 2019.
Pashinski said House Bill 1463 includes proposed modest fee increases to license a dog, as well as a streamlined system for dog licensing. The dog licensing fee has not been increased in 21 years and currently, each county, and some cities, have their own individual system for licensing dogs.
“In addition to stabilizing the funding used to protect dogs across Pennsylvania, this legislation has a consumer convenience component,” Pashinski said. “By streamlining and modernizing the licensing process, we’re making it easier for Pennsylvanians to license their dog and easier for the Department of Agriculture to keep and maintain proper records.”
The Dog Law Restricted Account, which is managed by the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, is used to support the bureau’s activities, including investigating dog bites, securing stray dogs, inspecting licensed kennels and reimbursing for damage to livestock caused by dogs.
If nothing is done to stabilize the Dog Law Restricted Account, Pashinski the fund balance is expected to be negative throughout 2019 and beyond.
“This will diminish the bureau’s ability to protect dogs and the general public,” Pashinski said. “In an attempt to cut costs, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has eliminated approximately 30 positions and reimbursements to 50 shelters across Pennsylvania. “
Todd Hevner, executive director of the Luzerne County SPCA, said the increase in licensing fees would be a big help to agencies like the SPCA.
“It’s not a right to own an animal, it’s a privilege,” Hevner said. “This increase will help keep animals and the community safer.”
Pashinski said there were 172 reported dog bites in Luzerne County in 2017 and 111 have been reported so far in 2018.
Donmoyer said there are just under 1 million licenses issued each year in Pennsylvania.
“We are not asking for more than what is needed,” she said.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.