Dog Law Advisory board to meet, enforcement, strays, licenses top agenda

Enforcement, licensing and the stray dog/sheltering crisis top the agenda of the Dog Law Advisory Board which meets tomorrow (Thurs.) at 1 p.m. at the Department of Agriculture building in Harrisburg.

This is the board's second meeting since the Corbett administration took office in Jan. 2011. and the first since Dog Law Enforcement Office director Lynn Diehl was removed in June, following revelations of lax enforcement in the state's more than 2,000 licensed kennels.

At the April meeting, Diehl admitted only a fraction of commercial kennels were in compliance with provisions of the 2008 dog law. Inspection reports showed that Canine Health Regulations governing ammonia levels, humidity and lighting in the largest kennels and that were to go into effect July 1, 2011, were being ignored almost a year later and kennels were not cited for non-compliance.

Three sub-committees of the board were formed in April to study the most pressing issues: dog licensing, stray dogs and shelters and enforcement. Those sub-committees are scheduled to issue their reports on Thursday.

Michael Pechart, a top aide to Agriculture Secretary George Greig, took over the dog law office in June. He has indicated that dog license sales are up and that the dog law enforcement fund - which covers wardens' salaries and equipment and was set to run out of money this fiscal year - is no longer in imminent danger, but the current budget status is unclear.

Pechart has declined several requests for an interview on this subject or any other developments in the office.

Currently at least five counties (Perry, Bradford, Potter, Tioga, Sullivan) are without a dedicated warden. Four of the five counties (Perry excepted) are located in the state's remote northern tier and have among the largest square mileage in the state and limited high speed highways, making it difficult for wardens elsewhere to reach the counties.

Also expected to be a hot topic of discussion: the state's decision to eliminate the fulltime kennel veterinarian position and replace it with a per diem arrangement. The move is being strongly criticized by animal welfare advocates who say having a vet regularly inspect kennels is critical to ensuring the health of the dogs is monitored.