Panel to discuss changes to Pa. dog law

January 22, 2008 5:08:11 AM PST

The Dog Law Advisory Board is to meet in Harrisburg on Wednesday and examine both a new draft dog law and revised administrative regulations put forth by Rendell's aides.

The dog law covers the licensing of nearly 1 million dogs statewide, around 2,600 kennels, and the handling of strays and dangerous dogs. The regulations spell out how government employees will enforce the law.

Animal organization leaders, however, are worried that the Rendell administration is confusing matters by trying to simultaneously alter both its regulations and the state dog law itself.

Ken Brandt, executive director of the Pennsylvania Professional Dog Breeders Association, and Nina Schafer, head of the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, were among eight leaders who wrote Rendell and Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff on Jan. 11, urging them to hold off changing the regulations until after the dog law is updated.

"We believe that to try to amend the statute and regulations simultaneously will create distraction and controversy that could assure that neither process is successful," they wrote.

Rendell spokeswoman Teresa Candori said the administration now is focusing on improving dog law enforcement legislatively, rather than through regulation. But the regulation changes are still on the table, said Chris Ryder, a spokesman for the state Agriculture Department.

Rendell's goal is to crack down on puppy mills without hurting quality breeders and kennels.

Last month, the administration circulated a preliminary draft of a new dog law that contained sweeping changes.

It would create a new classification for commercial kennels, where dogs are kept for years solely for breeding; ban wire-cage flooring; increase the size of enclosures; make provisions for exercise; and limit the stacking of cages.

It also would attempt to close a loophole that prevents dog wardens from acting on alleged violations of the cruelty law. That law now can be enforced only by police and humane officers.

Advisory board member Marsha Perelman said much of the feedback she has received on the changes has been "enormously positive," but said the proposals still need work, particularly the language outlining kennels' physical design.

Cori Menkin, of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the state was poised to make big improvements.

"Generally, from what we've seen so far, we think it's a really strong bill," Menkin said.