The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 12, 2013

Campaign improves dog-law compliance across Pennsylvania

By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News

DANVILLE — A new campaign to get owners to license their dogs is working.

In Montour County, sales have topped what they were in all of 2012, according to county treasurer Jim Petro.

More than 1,700 regular licenses and more than 500 senior licenses have already been sold in the county. Last year, 1,630 regular licenses and 530 senior licenses were sold.

The campaign to get people to buy licenses began in March, which was declared Dog License Awareness Month, said Michael Pechart, executive deputy secretary of agriculture and acting director of the dog law enforcement office, who was visiting Petro’s office Wednesday.

Dog law officers have canvassed Montour County and plan to do more canvasses in the county.

Fifty-one dog wardens and seven supervisors in the state have been educating people that licensing dogs 3 months and older as of Jan. 1 each year is state law.

“We had only sold 1 million licenses in Pennsylvania and there are 12.4 Pennsylvanians. We are pretty sure there are more dogs than 1 in 12 and that some people have more than one dog,” Pechart said.

“A lot of people don’t realize the benefits of having a license on a dog. If the dog runs off and is picked up by a dog warden or police, it is held for 48 hours. If the owner isn’t found, we have to take it to a shelter and most of the shelters are hurting financially and full. We pick up 14,000 stray dogs a year in Pennsylvania. It’s an epidemic. If we pick a dog up and can’t take it to the local shelter, we would have to take it to a neighboring county or multiple counties away — what’s the chance of getting the dog back?” he said.

“A license is the dog’s ticket home,” Pechart said.

He said dog wardens will be knocking on doors checking for licenses. If owners don’t have licenses, they can be fined up to $300.

The officers will also make sure the dogs are up to date on rabies vaccines. “Pennsylvania is one of the top five states in the U.S. for rabies positive cases. It’s very important,” he said.

Petro said a fox was confirmed recently to have rabies in West Hemlock Township where he lives.

Money collected from dog license sales is used to enforce licensing and rabies vaccines, for officers to inspect nearly 2,300 kennels twice a year in the state and to administer the dangerous dog law with more than 500 dogs registered as having bitten or showing propensity to bite in the state, Pechart said.

Dog wardens work with humane society police officers to enforce animal cruelty laws. “We have a tremendous number of dogs in hoarding and fighting,” he said.