Committee oks measure to study dog law impact

A House committee on Tuesday approved a measure that would authorize a study examining the economic impacts of the 2008 dog law.

The resolution (HR 89) , approved in a 19-5 vote in the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee directs the bipartisan Joint State Government Committee to review the impact "on the regulated commercial dog kennel industry, its business service sectors and the Commonwealth and the estimated impacts of the implementation of the regulatory standards which take effect on July 1, 2011."

Lead sponsor Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R., Lancaster) told the committee his intent was not to reopen the dog law - which established more humane standards for care of dogs in commercial breeding facilities - but to provide information on whether it has reduced state revenue or cost jobs.

"This does not represent an attempt to change the law," he said Tuesday. 

However, the resolution clearly states otherwise, directing the commission to consider:

The feasibility of implementing the commercial kennel canine health regulatory standards on July 1, 2011.

 (2) The scope of amendments to the Dog Law which might be desirable refinements to address the problems identified by the certifying entities.

(3) The scope of amendments to the commercial kennel canine health regulatory standards adopted under the act of October 9, 2008 (P.L.1450, No.119), which might be desirable refinements to address the problems identified by the certifying entities.

A spokesman for House Majority leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said there was no immediate plan to bring the bill to the floor for final passage.

When asked by committee members, Denlinger was unable to provide data to support the resolution's claims that "millions" in state sales and income tax dollars is being lost and that veterinarians are suffering business losses as a result.

In fact, it was not until a 2010 agreement with the Department of Revenue that commercial dog breeders had to prove they collect sales tax before being issued a kennel license. At the time a breeder representative sought amnesty for kennel operators which indicates many were not paying sales tax to begin with despite the fact that dogs sales are a taxable under the law

Tom Hickey, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board, condemned the measure "mischief by a few members" and the study a "waste of taxpayer money."

"The hundreds of thousands who spoke out three years ago in the state will not allow this behavior," said Hickey, who helped draft the dog law. "They should take a lighter and burn this resolution."

The number of commercial kennels - those which sell more than 60 dogs a year or sell a single dog to a pet store - in Pennsylvania once totaling roughly 300, has dropped to just over 100 since the dog law was signed by Gov. Rendell. But about 70 of those that dropped their commercial license remain open under a smaller class of license.