Ag secretary steps down, deputy promoted

Dennis Wolff, who as secretary of agriculture led Gov. Rendell's efforts to improve conditions in commercial dog kennels, toughen enforcement and make kennel inspection information accessible to the public, is stepping down to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

Wolff's last day will be Sept. 12 and Rendell said today he will nominate executive deputy secretary Russell Redding to lead the department.

Redding has worked in the Department of Agriculture since 1995 and run its day-to-day operations as the second-in-command since 2003.

It is not yet known how active Redding will be on dog issues or if he has plans for changes within the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. But animal advocates say as deputy secretary he attended meetings involving kennel issues and expressed interest in the opinions of the animal welfare community.

Wolff testified numerous times on behalf of Rendell at hearings on proposed changes to the dog law that ultimately resulted in the passage of landmark legislation last year that imposes new requirements on commercial dog kennels. Among the provisions of Act 119, also known as "the puppy mill bill," are solid kennel flooring, veterinary checks for breeding dogs, mandatory exercise and a ban on cage stacking for kennels with 60 or more dogs.

In an email today, Wolff's said he planned to seek opportunities in the private sector "to help shape public policy in agriculture statewide and nationally." Wolff was one of the last members of Rendell's original 2003 cabinet still holding office.

Redding's nomination must be approved by the full Senate.