At long last, state dog law board to meet

The state Dog Law Advisory Board is scheduled to meet for the first time since Gov. Corbett took office in January 2011.

Members - at least some of them - were advised by mail that the board would meet on April 25 from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 309 of the Department of Agriculture building 2301 Cameron St. Harrisburg.

At least two members had not received invitations as of Tuesday.

 In 2006, the Dog Law Advisory Board became the focal point of then-Gov. Rendell's effort to overhaul the dog law and end the state's reputation as the "puppy mill' Capital of the East.

 No agenda was included with the notice.

With the former bureau, now Office of Dog Law Enforcement anticipated to go broke next year (that means zero dollars for enforcing the state dog law governing 2,700 licensed kennels), there is no shortage of topics on the minds of board members and dog-loving members of the public.

So, we asked a few folks what they'd like to see discussed after the board's long hiatus:

Tom Hickey, a dog law advisory board member, said he wants answers about the state of current inspections and the status of compliance with Canine Health Regulations that were to go into effect last July. At that time commercial kennels were required to have made modifications to their kennels to ensure proper ventilation, temperature, ammonia levels and lighting.

None of the remaining 60 or so commercial kennels received inspections in 2011 after that date, raising questions about whether the regulations were being enforced and whether necessary equipment was installed in kennels and whether training and equipment provided to dog wardens.

At legislative budget hearings in February, Agriculture Secretary George Greig blamed the delay on equipment installation and training and said that  inspections would be completed by March 1. But so far none have been posted. This means that the largest kennels in the state have not been inspected in more than a year as required under the law. Even before the new dog law took effect all kennels were inspected twice a year.

Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County and is not a member of the board, said he wants answers about what happened to SB 1329, the bill banning the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in shelters. Language to provide shelters access to drugs used for lethal injections and training for staff charged with the responsibility of humanely euthanizing dogs was removed at the last minute before unanimous passage in the state Senate. (More on that subject from bill sponsor Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester in this space soon.)

Minor would also like to hear discussion on the increasingly limited number of shelters accepting strays and why license sales can't be done on line statewide. He also wants to know why positions are not being filled within dog law and why it appears the dog law is not being enforced.

Minor also wants to discuss moving dog law out of the department of agriculture. Many believe there is an inherent conflict of interest - the promotion of agriculture with enforcement of humane standards of animal care -in agriculture and want dog law move to another agency.

Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D., Berks) is working on legislation to put dog law under the Pennsylvania State Police. 

Mary Remer, dog law advisory board member, said she had not received an invitation yet,  but expressed exasperation over the future of the advisory board. Remer wrote in an email: "Where are we going? What is the DLAB's job description now? What are our changes and does anyone in a position of authority care?"

Julian Prager, dog law advisory board member, would like to discuss the funding issue for shelters which he says is a "serious one." He'd also like to develop plans to boost dog license sales.