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Barking up the right tree: Adjustments due for dog licenses

Is it preposterous to suggest that fewer than 50 percent of Pennsylvania dog owners might not have purchased 2021 licenses for their pets – and perhaps neglect that responsibility every year?

Maybe so, but probably not.

That question is a reasonable topic for reflection as the Pennsylvania Legislature remains irresponsibly locked in inability to reach agreement regarding the puppy-sized “problem” of adequately funding what is reasonably described as the cash-strapped Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.

It is amazing that members of the General Assembly – individuals who are paid handsomely for what is supposed to be part-time government service – are incapable of mustering the ability to once and for all resolve this mini-issue that has stymied them for so long.

Dog licenses: For 25 years – a quarter-century – the small price of a dog license has remained unchanged in the Keystone State, limiting the efforts of the state’s dog law agency, while lawmakers apparently haven’t been able to live on the legislative salaries that they were paid in 1996.

For state residents unfamiliar with how dog law enforcement is financed in this state, the enforcement bureau has been self-funded through the sale of dog licenses to owners since 1893. There is no automatic provision for license-fee increases, not even for an increase of a designated percentage every 10, 15 or 25 years.

The bureau needs the ability to enforce the dog-licensing requirement, to acquire the needed revenue to perform its important duties such as investigating dog attacks on humans, capturing dogs running at large and helping owners find runaways.

Licensing is not just a formality and revenue-raiser, but a policy that promotes safety as well as the animal’s best interests, such as if it were to become lost or, even, stolen.

A licensing rate of possibly lower than 50 percent, considering how the bureau is expected to survive financially, does not enhance the bureau’s ability to do the job with which it is entrusted.

But lawmakers’ compensation continues to increase, whether they do or do not accomplish much during a legislative session.

Modernizing dog law licensing and enforcement: How is anything ever going to be accomplished on that front if legislators cannot even agree on the fact that, after 25 years, the bureau needs a modest boost in its main revenue source? It is time for lawmakers to admit that money-shuffling from the Agriculture Department’s general government operations line item cannot continue forever.

Is it a grave “sin” to even suggest that perhaps the Ag Department line is receiving too much money that it doesn’t really need? Lawmakers felt capable of transferring $1.5 million from that line to the dog law agency under the latest fiscal code, while $1.2 million was transferred during Fiscal 2020-21.

To bring in more revenue, Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 526 would increase the annual dog license fee to a “whopping” $10 from its current $6.50, and a lifetime dog license would cost $49 instead of $31.50.

Compare those numbers to the prices of a pack or carton of cigarettes, or the prices of scratch-off lottery tickets.

Dog licensing violations need to be addressed, and a $10 license fee would not be excessive, considering the potential benefits.

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