HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Monday, Oct. 23, Governor Josh Shapiro signed Senate Bill 746 into law. According to the administration, this bill updates and changes Pennsylvania’s Dog Law to improve public safety, improve conditions for dogs in breeding kennels, daycares and shelters, and more.

“It has been a long time coming,” said Pennsylvania SPCA Director of Animal Law Enforcement Nicole Wilson. “We are very excited for the Bureau [of Dog Law Enforcement] as well as for the community at large.”

The law makes several changes, including requiring dogs to be licensed at the time they are bought or adopted, which is legal at eight weeks, or by the time they are three months old, whichever comes first. People selling or offering dogs for adoption also have to provide a copy of the dog license application.

“Pennsylvanians have made it clear that they expect kennels, breeders, and shelters to be held to high standards,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “They want their communities to be safe from stray and dangerous dogs. They want owners to be held responsible when their dog attacks, and they want unscrupulous breeders to be shut down. The Shapiro Administration, working with both parties in the legislature, has made commonsense changes to the dog law to keep our communities, our families, and our dogs safe and healthy.”

This law also raises fees for annual and lifetime licenses for the first time in over 20 years. That money goes to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.

“The Bureau of Dog Law has been underfunded for a number of years,” Wilson said, adding the new influx of funds will help them hire more dog wardens and better serve the community.

The law also doubles registration fees for keeping a dangerous dog and puts more responsibility on owners if they violate the conditions of having that dog.

“It provides for the owner to actually incur expenses for housing that animal in a licensed kennel so that the community can feel protected,” Wilson said.

The law also includes protections for prospective dog owners. Kennels now have to provide breeder information, vaccine and medical records and any bite history.

Republican State Senator Elder Vogel, who sponsored the bill, told abc27 in a statement, “By doing this it will hopefully help potential new owners make more informed decisions and aid in making sure a dog is better matched for a new family.”

The bill has had bipartisan support and was also supported by animal welfare advocates, kennel owners, local law enforcement, county treasures, and others.

“It’s just wonderful to see that both sides of the aisle can come together for the betterment of conditions for dogs in the community [and] in the Commonwealth,” Wilson said.

As quoted in the release, measures in the updated law include the following:

  • All dogs in Pennsylvania will now be required to be licensed at the time of purchase (legal at eight weeks), or by three months old, whichever comes first.
  • Those selling or offering dogs for adoption will be required to provide a dog license application along with the dog. 
  • The fee for an annual dog license will increase to $8.70 on March 1, 2024, for all dogs. Licenses purchased between December 1, 2023, and March 1, 2024, will be available at the prior rate of $6.70 for spayed or neutered dogs, and $8.70 for others.
  • Lifetime license fees will increase to $52.70 on March 1, 2024. Lifetime licenses purchased between December 1, 2023, and March 1, 2024, will be available at the prior rate of $31.70 for neutered animals, and $51.70 for others.
  • The law enables the Sec. of Agriculture to increase fees again by $2 on December 1, 2025, and $1 on December 1, 2027.
  • Fines for unlicensed dogs will range from $100 to $500, plus court costs.
  • The criminal penalties for all other violations of the dog law have increased to $500 to $1,000 for summary offenses and $1,000 to $5,000 for misdemeanor offenses plus court costs.
  • The annual registration for harboring a dangerous dog will increase from $500 to $1,000 for any dog deemed dangerous after 90 days.
  • Owners of dogs already declared dangerous that attack again, will be required to find and pay a kennel to house the dog during court proceedings, to ensure the community remains safe until a final determination is made.
  • License fees for kennels will increase on March 1, 2024.  
  • Kennels and shelters that offer dogs for sale or adoption must include their kennel license number in advertisements.
  • Kennels selling or adopting dogs at retail to the public are responsible for disclosing breeder information, vaccination and medical documentation, and any known bite attacks on a human or a domestic animal.
  • Dogs imported into PA kennels must be isolated for at least 14 days.  

The changes to the law will take effect after 90 days.

Most dog owners can get licenses from their county, but some cities require residents to get a license from them directly. In the Midstate, that applies to Harrisburg residents.

In addition to the changes to the dog law, Governor Shaprio also signed six other bills into law, some of which include school buses, Pennsylvania residency status for those at military outposts, and license recertification for state workers.