June 16, 2023
Senator Joe Pittman
Senate Box 203041
350 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3047
Representative Dan Moul
416 Irvis Office Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2091
Representative Eddie Day Pashinski
214 Irvis Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2121
To Senator Pittman and Representatives Moul & Pashinski:
My mission, as a Pennsylvania dog breeder, is to breed, whelp and raise quality puppies and dogs for sale to the public that will become beloved members of families for many years to come. As a purebred kennel owner, I work hard to follow the Dog Law and its regulations, so my customers know that my puppies are well-taken care of, and my business is in compliance with the laws. The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement (BDLE) has been a trusted partner in achieving this goal. From inspecting our kennels, to offering educational support when we have disease issues and concerns, to partnering with us to achieve compliance with various aspects of the Dog Law, to shining a light on our quality kennels. BDLE has been a reliable resource and support for us. It is our partnership with the BDLE that has allowed us to shed the long-held image and reputation of being the puppy mill capital of the East. And we must continue moving forward to sustain and improve upon this image and reputation as proud Pennsylvania dog breeders. Without dog wardens available to do our legally required inspections, we risk being unfairly targeted by the media and misunderstood by the public.
I currently operate a hobby kennel in Adams County. My husband and I breed and show top quality collies – yes, Lassie! We have been fortunate to have the top winning collie in the country during the 90’s and currently own one of the top winning white collies. In a span of 30 plus years, we have not had any increase in the kennel fee of $75 (as a Class K1). While my operation is small and maintained as a hobby and pursuit of a passion, there are many back yard breeders and non-licensed kennels who are producing puppies without the oversight of the BDLE solely due to the lack of funds to provide adequate staffing.
The fees from individual dog license sales and our kennel license fees, fund Dog Law’s operation. Individual dog license fees have not increased in nearly 30 years and kennel fees have not increased in nearly 60 years. The Dog Law fund went negative in September 2020; since then, BDLE has been reliant on the Department’s General Fund support to maintain bare minimum operations. This has caused the bureau to operate with significant vacancies, which is very concerning to me as a stakeholder operating a licensed kennel in the Commonwealth. Sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel, SB 746 modernizes dog licensing in Pennsylvania, strengthens penalties for violators of the Dog Law, and improves customer service, public safety, and animal welfare for all residents. In addition to my support for an individual dog license fee increase, as a kennel owner I also support a kennel license fee increase. I recognize that it is a responsibility of all of us to help fund and support Dog Law just as they help and support the kennels in Pennsylvania and promote public safety.
There is so much at stake. Since establishing some of the most stringent requirements in 2008 for protecting dogs in commercial kennels, and many licensed kennels, like myself, have made great progress to ensure dogs are treated humanely. Without increasing dog license and kennel license fees, the bureau will not have the financial resources to continue its work, threatening to undo the progress made over the past fifteen years, and putting dogs and puppies at greater risk of mistreatment and neglect can we turn to for guidance and support?
Even if you don’t own a dog – please be aware that the pet industry and in particular, dog ownership, has significantly increased since the pandemic. Millions of dollars are spent in the Commonwealth on pet dogs and activities that support their health and well-being. I urge you to pass Senate Bill 746, because dogs in the Commonwealth deserve it.
Thank you for reading my communication on this matter. If you have any question, please feel free to contact me.
Suzanne E. Benchoff, Ed.D
Owner Conewago Collies
(717) 253-1804 – cell or text
Chambersburg Area Kennel Club
Central Penn Collie Club
Collie Health Foundation
Collie Club of America
Member, Advisory Board – PA BDLE