March proclaimed Dog License Awareness Month

HARRISBURG — In an effort to protect Pennsylvania’s many canine residents, Gov. Tom Wolf has proclaimed March 2018 as Dog License Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.

The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is part of the state’s Department of Agriculture, and Agriculture Executive Deputy Secretary Michael Smith is reminding Pennsylvanians about the benefits of and need to license their dogs.

Having a dog license is not only the best way to bring home a lost pet more quickly, but the proceeds of dog license sales also ensure dogs and the public are kept safe.

Smith says that approximately 5,000 lost dogs end up in animal shelters each year, and a dog license is a ticket home for a lost pet.

“But more than that, the revenues we receive from dog license sales help make sure dogs in kennels are raised safely and treated humanely; that the public has someplace to turn when there is a need to investigate dog bites; and that there is a database to track dangerous dogs that could pose a threat to the community,” Smith said. “So if you love your dog — if you want to ensure our communities are safe from dangerous dogs — license your dog.”

Licensing your dog is quick and easy. Licenses are available through country treasurers’ offices, and many counties offer licenses through sub-agents or online.

The fee for an annual dog license is $6.50, or $8.50 if the animal is not spayed or neutered.

Lifetime licenses are available for dogs that have permanent identification like a microchip or tattoo. Older adults and persons with disabilities may be eligible for discounts.

The dog license application is simple and only requests owner contact information and details about the dog being licensed, such as name, age, breed and color.

Pennsylvania law requires a current license for all dogs at least three months old, but according to estimates from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, fewer than half of all dogs in the Commonwealth are licensed, although rates vary by county. Owners who fail to license their dogs could face a fine of up to $300 for each unlicensed dog.

In 2017, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement issued 3,198 summary citations and 115 misdemeanor complaints of Dog Law violations, including failure to license a dog; unlicensed kennels; dangerous dogs; dogs running at large or abandoned; and others. This was a 6.7 percent increase over 2016. The bureau refused or revoked 11 kennel licenses or applications in 2017, an increase of 37.5 percent.

“If we care about this good and important work, and if we want to ensure it continues to keep our pets and our communities safe, we must preserve the solvency of the Dog Law Restricted Account,” said Smith, referring to the state account that finances the work of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. Approximately 87 percent of all funds in the restricted account are generated by dog license sales, but fees for dog licenses have not changed in nearly 22 years, while costs have increased significantly.

“The Dog Law Restricted Account will go negative as soon as June of this year,” Smith said. “If that happens, we will not have the resources we need to keep dogs and the public safe. That means fewer dog wardens to pick up strays, inspect kennels, or investigate dog bites. And it means we will no longer be able to track dangerous dogs, leaving the public without the information they need to know whether there is a dangerous dog in their neighborhood. We simply cannot allow that to happen.”

Smith said two bills in the General Assembly would solve this problem. Senate Bill 738 and House Bill 1463, sponsored by Senator Judy Schwank and Representative Eddie Day Pashinski, respectively, would raise dog license fees at a rate commensurate with inflation since the last fee adjustment, but also institute much-needed reform measures that will allow us to modernize our operations to provide better services to Pennsylvanians and realize greater efficiencies.

In Mifflin County, dog licenses can be purchased at the county treasurer’s office in the courthouse, 20 North Wayne St., Lewistown; Fisher-Thompson in Belleville; Riverfront Store in Newton Hamilton; River Valley Hardware in McVeytown; Brindles Hardware in Reedsville and the Point Store in McClure. To purchase a license online, go to www.comifflin.pa.us and choose the Mifflin County Treasurer’s Office link under departments.

To find your local dog warden, and a database of shelter and kennel inspections, visit licenseyourdogpa.pa.com or call the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement at (717) 787-3062.

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