FINALLY! Dog Law Advisory Board to Meet on April 25, 2012Posted by in Uncategorized
(Guest blog by Jenny Stephens, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch)
At long last, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement’s Advisory Board will meet on April 25, 2012 from 1 to 4PM in room 309 at the PA Department of Agriculture building located at 2301 Cameron Street in Harrisburg, PA.
More than a year has passed since the Board last convened; a breach of the Bureau’s own regulations that requires “regular” meetings. In 2009 – and in years previous – the Board met four times a year; in 2010, there were two Board meetings however in 2011 not one meeting was held.
In stark contrast, both a lot and nothing have transpired since the last meeting in 2010 and, applicable to both, nothing positive for the dogs has been accomplished. The Bureau is on the verge of bankruptcy; the new Dog Law enacted in 2008 is not being enforced; commercial breeding kennels are not being inspected and some have not been visited in over a year; an assortment of open positions exists within the Bureau… a Bureau that’s not even called a “bureau” anymore but is now referred to as an “office” and the list goes on.
In case you’re wondering, the Dog Law Advisory Board consists of 25 members:
(1) The secretary or his designee, who shall act as chairman.
(2) A representative of animal research establishments.
(3) A representative of a statewide veterinary medical association.
(4) Two representatives of animal welfare organizations*
(5) Three representatives of farm organizations, with one from each statewide general farm organization
(6) A representative of dog clubs.
(7) A representative of commercial kennels.
(8) A representative of pet store kennels.
(9) A representative of sportsmen.
(10) A representative of a national purebred canine pedigree registry.
(11) A representative of lamb and wool growers.
(12) A county treasurer.
(13) A representative of hunting-sporting dog organizations.
(14) A representative of the police.
(15) A representative of boarding kennels.
(16) Seven members representing the general public who are recommended by the Governor
*In this instance, “animal welfare organizations” refers to open access shelters – shelters that employ a humane society police officer and accepts all surrendered animals as well as animals running at large versus private rescues.
As you can plainly see, the deck is stacked against those who advocate for canines. With only two members out of 25 representing the advocacy community, it’s not hard to understand why little headway is ever made to address issues that would benefit the puppy mill dogs, the homeless dogs, the neglected, abused, tethered and stray dogs. In fact, when you look at the other seats on the Board, it’s obvious they are pro-breeding in an era when Pennsylvania is facing a dog overpopulation predicament.
Sadly, PA advocates recently lost its strongest voice on the DLAB: Nancy Gardner, President of the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, PA. Ms. Gardner was advised, via correspondence, that her term on the Board had ended and was thanked for her services; sadly, she was never asked if she wished to retain her seat or bring her years of expertise to a largely new Board formed under the Corbett administration. Nancy’s absence from the Board represents a tremendous loss to advocates and she will be sorely missed.
In fact, many replacements have supposedly been made and several of these individuals – while having experience in their particular field – have little to no experience with Pennsylvania’s Dog Law or the statewide problems that plague the canine advocacy community..
If you’ve never attended a Dog Law Advisory Board meeting, and they are open to the public, it tends to be… and please pardon the pun, a dog and pony show. Members of the public may observe and, if time allows, short commentary is permitted but only after the Board has concluded its business.
Wednesday’s meeting should prove quite interesting as new members to the Board will be introduced and tremendous discussion pursuant to the Bureau’s current financial state is anticipated.
Another FYI in case you weren’t aware, the Bureau is funded by three streams of revenue: the licensing of dogs by private dogs owners, the sale of kennel licenses, and the receipt of up to $69,000 pursuant to the issuance of fines for infractions of the Dog Law.
According to Bureau of Dog Law’s Michael Pechart, close to $500,000 in fines was generated in 2009 however only $69,000 ended up in the Dog Law Restricted Account with the balance going to the Commonwealth. The $69,000 figure is the maximum the Bureau is permitted to retain. Additionally, the account’s not really “restricted,” is it, considering the Commonwealth helped itself to several million during the Rendell administration to “balance the budget” and those funds were never replaced… funds that were supposed to be used to enforce the law and protect dogs.
With many ideas sure to be brought to the table to increase revenue at Wednesday’s meeting, hopefully discussion will include the introduction of legislation to address why the Bureau is not permitted to retain the funds it generates by enforcing the law and collecting fines from those who break it.
Unfortunately, it’s predicted that plans to boost revenue will fall squarely on the public via increased license fees. For decades private dog owners have funded Dog Law and instead of utilizing these funds appropriately, the money, for all intents and purposes, has been misappropriated and stolen. To ask the public to come to the rescue of this Bureau and remain the primary source of revenue when the Bureau isn’t doing its job is simply ridiculous. If individual dog license prices are to be increased, so too should kennel license fees, especially when you consider the many problems created by those who exploit dogs for profit.
Pennsylvania regulations mandate the existence of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and, despite many recent changes that fall far short of complying with actual regulations, it would appear that the sky’s the limit insofar as how far and long the Corbett administration will allow this agency to make up the rules as it goes along.
Without a fully functioning Bureau of Dog Law, Pennsylvania faces a serious canine crisis and cracks in the foundation are already apparent. State representatives and senators need to understand and contemplate the impact the demise of Dog Law will have upon their constituents and local regions and move toward enacting a more equitable distribution of the funds generated by the collection of fines by those who disregard the law.
As advocates, prepare to brace yourselves. The storm clouds on the horizon are quickly approaching and it’s likely to be raining cats and dogs in the very near future.