Why Licensing Your Dog in Pennsylvania Is a Big Deal

Buying a 2023 dog license does more than provide identification for your dog, it also helps curb the exploitation of dogs trapped in breeding kennels.

You’ve heard the stories and have probably seen the heart-wrenching images. The very words “puppy mill” have the ability to make most cringe, yet few dog owners realize that when they buy an annual dog license, they are helping fund the agency charged with overseeing all kennel operations in Pennsylvania.

Every January, dog owners are asked (and required by state law) to purchase a license for dogs 3 months of age and older.

Everyone knows that a dog license contains contact information to help reunite lost pets with their owner, but many with microchipped dogs wonder who gets hurt if they don’t buy a license.

Dogs trapped in puppy mills, that’s who.

Money fr0m the sale of dog licenses represents a large portion of the operating budget for the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement (BDLE), a division within the Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture.

The BDLE employs dog wardens who are responsible for inspecting all breeding, boarding and research kennels along with pet shops and shelters/rescues as mandated by the Pennsylvania Dog Law. Dog wardens also charge and prosecute those running illegal kennels and puppy mills.

Any facility housing 26 or more dogs during a 12-month period is required to hold a kennel license and allow for unannounced inspections twice a year. Kennel inspection reports are online and may be viewed here.

The cost of a dog license is ridiculously affordable:

Annual Spayed/Neutered $6.50

Annual Unaltered $8.50

Lifetime Spayed/Neutered $31.50

Lifetime Unaltered $51.50

Discount for Seniors/Disabled Spayed/Neutered $4.50

Discount for Seniors/Disabled Unaltered $6.50

Dog license fees have not increased since 1996 and that’s a problem.

The BDLE is on the verge of bankruptcy and without dog wardens, kennels will not be inspected and the health and welfare of dogs in those facilities may be greatly jeopardized.

Legislators have tried, repeatedly, to pass legislation to increase the price of individual dog and kennel licenses without success.

The highly polarized political climate in Harrisburg has impacted more than just people, it has endangered man’s best friend.

Lancaster County, infamous for its large number of puppy mills, is currently without a permanently assigned dog warden.

According to the Bureau’s last annual report, 805,663 individual dog licenses were sold in 2021, generating $5,527,048 in revenue.

“[The] BDLE’s current financial crisis and lack of adequate funding, which was further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, is directly related to license sales,” the report says.

Dog licenses are purchased by way of the county treasurer. Bucks County residents may purchase a license here or by visiting the Bucks County Treasurer’s office located at 55 Court Street in Doylestown.

Caution: do not purchase a dog license from a third-party website. The website – now removed from the internet – scammed Pennsylvanians, as reported by Justin Heinze of the Lansdale Patch.

The Dog Law should not be confused with Section 5531 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code that enables prosecution for animal abuse, cruelty and neglect. Section 5531 is typically enforced by humane officers employed by local shelters such as a humane society or SPCA, not dog wardens.

Most people don’t realize that the majority of SPCAs and humane societies are independently run and have absolutely no affiliation with the ASPCA or the Humane Society of the United States. In fact, HSUS and ASPCA don’t operate a single shelter in Pennsylvania.

To help animals in your community, donate to your local shelter.

Buying a dog license does more than provide identification for your pet, it helps fund kennel inspections so that dogs trapped in puppy mills are receiving every accommodation required by law.
To report dogs running loose, dogs not vaccinated for rabies, dog bites or dangerous dogs, contact the Bucks County Dog Warden. To report animal abuse, cruelty or neglect in Bucks County, contact the humane officer at the Bucks County SPCA.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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