If you don’t have a dog, you probably don’t care about the price of a permit. Here’s why you should.
Dog license fees are used to enforce state dog laws. This includes the investigation of dangerous dogs, the management of stray dogs and the regulation of kennels.
The fee is meant to cover most of the cost. But they are no longer getting closer.
Taxes are therefore used for these expenses now.
Money that could be spent on education, school safety, emergency services, building roads and bridges, nursing homes, and countless other needs was shifted to paying dog sitters and kennel inspectors.
This year, the cost to taxpayers was $1.3 million. Next year it could be $3 million.
That’s the amount the state Department of Agriculture, which includes the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, asked state lawmakers in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget to be negotiated later this this month.
There is an easy alternative to spending taxpayers’ money on dog law enforcement: increasing dog license fees.
They have not been increased since 1996. This is why the income they generate no longer covers the expenses.
Only the legislator can increase the fees. A bill was introduced last year to this effect, but it came to nothing. Taxes were thus unnecessarily spent instead.
This is financial mismanagement. A million dollars does not seem like a lot in a budget of almost 40 billion dollars. But many other things could have been done with that money.
I’ll repeat what I wrote last year when I barked at this:
“Raising dog license fees should be one of the easiest decisions for lawmakers this year.
Dogs won’t mind the increase. We know that a license protects our dogs by identifying them, and us, in case they get lost.
Those who do not own dogs will not be affected by the increase, and they will be better protected against stray and dangerous dogs. If an unlicensed dog bites you, it can be harder to hold the owner accountable.
Lawmakers have another opportunity to address this issue. New legislation was introduced Thursday by Sen. Elder Vogel, a Republican from Beaver County.
This is interesting because it has been one of the barriers to fee increases in the past.
He is chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, where one of the previous bills that was ignored last year, Senate Bill 232, still languishes.
Vogel’s legislation, Senate Bill 1289, is broader. In addition to increasing most licensing fees, this would also significantly increase kennel revenue and fines.
I wonder if this will make it more difficult for the bill to pass, the opposition likely to arise from the kennel community.
According to Vogel’s invoice, the cost of an annual license for a dog would be $9.50 whether the dog was spayed or spayed. Currently the cost is $6.50 for spayed and neutered dogs and $8.50 for others.
Seniors and persons with disabilities would receive a reduced rate of $7.50.
Vogel’s proposal would raise the cost of a lifetime license to $81.50, up from $31.50 currently for spayed and neutered dogs and $51.50 for others. The cost would be $51.50 for seniors and people with disabilities.
These fees include a $1.50 service fee retained by the counties, which sell the licenses.
His bill would increase kennel fees, which have been the same for nearly 60 years, by 25%. These costs vary depending on the type of kennel.
Fines for having a dog without a license would range from $100 to $500, up to $50 to $300. The fine for operating a kennel without a license would be $1,000 to $5,000 per day, rising from $500 to $1,000.
A key feature of the legislation is that it would not require legislative approval for future increases. From five years, the Secretary of State for Agriculture would have the power to increase the fee in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.
Another key point, it would allow all dog owners to buy a license online. It’s a big problem with the current system, and I think it’s one of the reasons that up to half of the dogs in Pennsylvania aren’t allowed.
Some counties do not offer online ordering. People expect to be able to get services online. When they can’t, they give up.
Vogel’s bill would create a website for sales in counties that don’t provide this service.
As I wrote last year, dog lovers shouldn’t mind paying a few extra bucks a year. The fee is used to ensure dogs are well cared for in kennels and to protect the community from dangerous dogs.
The kennels haven’t had a raise in my lifetime and it’s time for them to pay more too. Of course, this cost will be passed on to customers.
The failure of licensing fees to keep up with the cost of dog law enforcement is not just a financial issue.
With the current funding shortfall, the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is understaffed and unable to fully enforce the laws.
There are 14 vacant positions in the office. Kennels aren’t inspected as frequently, illegal kennels may go undiscovered, and complaints about dog attacks take longer to respond to, Vogel said.
Raising more money through fees for the canine community — of which I am proud to be a part — would keep state residents safe and ensure their tax dollars are well spent.
Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This column was updated on June 20 to clarify the proposed new cost of dog licenses to include service fees retained by counties.