Dog Law Meeting Bites Me In The Butt!
Updated: Jul 14, 2018
On April 15, 2018 I attended the Dog Law Advisory Board meeting held at the Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg, PA. This meeting is open to the public and held twice a year, if not canceled. It was my first time attending this meeting and I went along with my PA friends in rescue, many of which have attended these meetings numerous times. Below I am sharing my take a-ways from the meeting as well some of the questions asked of the board and their responses.
The meeting opened with a power point presentation that mostly focused on lack of funding. The board’s answer to creating funds is, “to increase the price of PA dog licenses which fund the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, allowing them to crack down on illegal kennels, investigate dog bites and ensure dangerous dogs are not roaming the streets of Pennsylvania.” Much discussion was had on this topic, which by the way, has been on the table for two years.
Did you guys know that Lancaster County, the Puppy Mill Capital of the East Coast, is without a dog warden? It sure is, along with many, many other counties in PA.
The second most discussed agenda item was PA’s tethering laws (HB 1238). A few members noted the amount of loopholes in the law and its difficulty for Humane Officers to enforce.
Thirdly, there was a brief discussion on the PA “Dangerous Dog List.”
The board did not discuss the PA Puppy Retail Sales Bill that is to be introduced by state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler and state Rep. Jason Ortitay stating it would not be up for discussion until they could read the language of the bill.
After approximately 3 ½ of reviewing a lot ideas to generate funds and no action steps actually being planned the meeting closed and opened up for public comment. The turnout was low, less than 16 dog advocates showed up for PA dogs.
But I do understand there could be a lot of reasons for this:
1- People don’t know about the meeting
3- People can’t get off work
4- People feel as though nothing is being accomplished and the meeting is a waste of time.
I suspect this to be true of PA rescuers, as my friend told me this meeting was almost an exact repeat of the one from 2 years ago and every meeting since then. One board member even pleaded for the board to take votes or come up with plans. It was shot down for now as “there were to many new people on the board who had to do their research before making any decisions.” It left me wondering, why couldn’t the agenda and material be distributed BEFORE the meeting so everyone could come prepared or come with questions?
A lot of great questions were asked by the citizens present and there was a level of frustration noticeable. In regards to generating resources, one person suggested that breeders have to license each individual puppy that they have. The board expressed confusion about this and needed it explained a few times. In the end there was no firm agreement or disagreement. I am in favor of this idea as a puppy miller would not want to have to license the hundreds of puppies they produce each year. They also wouldn’t want to be that openly on the radar.
I spoke at the meeting and asked a few questions, one of which being a question that has circulated around dog rescue for the last 10 years. Is the Department of Agriculture really the best place for dogs, our companion animals, to fall under?
After a pause full looks of shock (I find it hard to believe no one ever mentioned this to them before) a member BEGAN stating to me that yes, dogs belong under the Department of Agriculture because “DOGS ARE LIVESTOCK.” Two other women at the table near him nodded their heads in agreement, but just as quickly as the words left his mouth, the Secretary of the Department, Russel Redding, hushed everyone up in a fluster reminding the board “no one on the board needs to answer this question, these are public comments and no one needs to respond.” It is truly no wonder puppy mills run rampant in Lancaster County with beliefs like this. Speaking of Russel, my observation of him was that he was funny and calm during the closed section of the meeting, but was visibly very annoyed by the public comment portion.
I think the thing that shocked me the most about this meeting is that the board would have had this entire meeting and not discussed puppy mills at all if the citizens did not. PA Puppy Mills are a major problem and they know it, yet do not speak about it-at all. I know I am not the only one concerned about this as other citizens stood up and said the same thing. Other citizens who had to fight tooth and nail to not have more mills open up in their back yards. Yet the board does not even mention the word?
We left the meeting feeling mentally exhausted. We were there for over 4 hours and came out with more questions than answers and no action plans. But what I can tell you is that the rescues, educators, and Humane Society in PA are all working diligently to bring an end to PA puppy mills…and so are private citizens. Community members are attending zoning hears on the local levels to do their best to stop more mills from opening or existing ones to expand.
So what can you do?
If you are in PA, you need to call your representatives and tell them you support the PA Puppy Retail Sales Bill. If you can, set up a time to meet with them one on one…which is how this bill actually came to be. A concern citizen set up meetings with their representatives. Sharing and hitting the like button on FB only does so much, we all need to do more. It is true what they say - Every call makes a difference, every meeting makes a difference, every person makes a difference.