State lawmakers consider higher dog license fees

HARRISBURG, Pa. – State lawmakers are considering a proposal from the Department of Agriculture to raise dog license fees in order to give a special fund for dog law enforcement a boost.

The legislature re-allocated $4 million from the fund to the general fund in the 2009 budget revenue plan, but never replaced the money, and ever since, the fund has not recouped that amount. Without action, the fund would become insolvent in November, officials said.

“Everybody is concerned to make sure these commercial kennels are treating the animals properly, the sanitation is good, the conditions are good, and we’re just trying to make sure that those are adequately inspected,” said Darin Cox, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs.

The proposed fee structure, found in the text of the bill, would see increases for annual and lifetime license fees, with discounts for senior citizens and the disabled.

“You know, I would say it’s definitely already high enough, definitely wouldn’t agree with it, but at the same time, there’s not much you can do,” said Brooks Ennist, a Harrisburg dog owner.

Also included in the proposal is the creation of a statewide portal to allow dog owners to pay licensing fees online, something dog owners would welcome.

“We just got him licensed when we got him in December of last year and the procedure was a little bit difficult,” said Jason Hunt as he walked his dog at Riverfront Park in Harrisburg.

The current proposal would also allow the Secretary of Agriculture the discretion to set fees in the future and create a state registry that would help police return lost dogs to their rightful owners, officials said.

“I understand that raising taxes or raising fees of any kind is very politically unpopular,” Cox said. “Having that slip back into where it was wouldn’t be very particularly popular either, so we think it’s definitely something that needs to be done at this point.”