‘Let’s do it for the canines.’ Pa. official says license hike wanted to thwart shady breeders | Pennsylvania

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'Let's do it for the dogs.' Pa. official says license hike needed to thwart shady breeders | Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s dog wardens help save the lives of dogs and puppies that are found at breeding sites living in horrible conditions and suffering from infections and disease, veterinarians and state officials said Wednesday.

Unfortunately, they said, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is running low on funds and endangering dog warden visits, which could allow any unscrupulous breeders among the nearly 3,000 in the state to continue mistreating animals without fear of getting caught.

The solution, said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, is for the Legislature to approve an increase in the dog license fee, which has remained unchanged since 1996, from $6.50 to $10 for spayed or neutered animals.

“We ask the public to please reach out to their legislators,” Redding said in an online press call on Wednesday. “Let’s do it for the dogs.”

A $3.50 increase would generate an additional $2.5 million to augment the bureau’s current $7.2 million budget, Redding said. He also said that additional funding would support the current level of service and allow for the bureau to fill now-vacant dog warden positions.

Besides inspecting kennels and investigating illegal ones, the bureau registers and tracks dangerous dogs.

Pennsylvania took a big step forward in 2008 with kennel legislation addressing the state’s notorious puppy mill reputation, Redding said, and now is the time to show that same commitment to keep inspections going.

“We need the action now,” he said. “Without it, more puppy mills will pop up.”

According to the Agriculture Department, Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget includes a $1.2 million transfer to the bureau in the current fiscal year and another $1.5 million transfer in the 2021-22 budget.

Two legislators, state Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks County, and state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne County, have introduced companion bills that would adjust the license fee structure and require puppies be licensed at 8-weeks-old, when they can be legally sold.

Both bills were introduced Feb. 16 and referred to each chamber’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Redding was joined on his call by veterinarians with the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, which supports a fee increase.

Dr. Mary Jane McNamee said that dog wardens “are invaluable in following up on our tips” about suspect kennels. “We need these well-trained dog wardens because they are the eyes and ears for us,” she said.

McNamee’s colleagues shared stories of the deplorable conditions some dogs are found in. Dr. JoEllen Bruinooge said dogs are discovered living “in urine and feces” with numerous infections.

One kennel owner tried to groom a dog on his own instead of hiring a professional and accidentally sliced off the dog’s eyelids with hair clippers, Bruinooge said.

Unsafe breeding practices can lead to families unknowingly adopting puppies and dogs that suffer from serious health issues, said the veterinarians.

Redding said he expects lawmakers to support the dog license increase, “but they need to know from the dog owners and Pennsylvanians at-large that this is an important piece of legislation.”

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