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Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement

Protector of Dogs, but will it last: picture of dog warden with stray dog emphasizing need to increase dog license fee.

The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is charged with protecting Pennsylvania’s puppies and dogs, protecting consumers, and protecting our communities from dangerous and stray animals.

The bureau does this by ensuring the welfare of breeding dogs and puppies in kennels. They also regulate activities pertaining to dogs that are classified as dangerous and oversee annual licensure and rabies vaccinations for dogs.

State dog wardens also pick up and transport stray dogs to shelters and if licensed, there’s a higher chance they’ll get reunited with their family. The bureau disburses funds to shelters that take in and hold stray dogs, as well. 

Act 18 of 2023 – Dog Law Modernization 

Thanks to Governor Shapiro, Senator Vogel and our partners in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 746 was signed into law by Governor Shapiro on October 23rd becoming Act 18 of 2023.

"Pennsylvanians have made it clear that they expect dog owners, 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 in a bipartisan approach  with the Pennsylvania General Assembly , has made commonsense changes to the dog law to keep our communities, our families, and our dogs safe and healthy."

The Shapiro Administration celebrates these historic changes to the Dog Law that will improve public safety and animal welfare standards, enhance transparency and customer service, and modernize the licensing process for dog owners, while providing financial stability for the Bureau. Act 18 takes effect on January 21st, 2024


    • Closes the gap between when a dog is transferred to a new owner and when it must be licensed, allowing dog owners to apply for a dog license at the time of transfer rather than waiting. This will greatly increase dog licensing numbers by providing education about dog licensing at time of purchase or adoption.  
    • Allows for dog owners in all counties to purchase dog licenses online, which will also greatly improve licensing compliance statewide by adding convenience. 
    • Sellers and adopters of dogs will be required to provide new owners with a copy of the dog license application along with a brochure regarding dog licensing and the benefits it provides.
Improved Public Safety and Animal Welfare   

    • Addresses issues of insolvency with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, allowing the department to hire additional wardens for understaffed regions, and helping ensure that there is sufficient staff to oversee kennels and dangerous dog follow-up. 
    • Requires dogs quarantined after attacks on humans to be muzzled, leashed, and under physical restraint by a reasonable person. Makes it easier for law enforcement to make a dangerous dog determination and simplifies the filing and prosecution of dangerous dog charges.   
    • Puts financial responsibility on the dog owner in situations in which a dog is to be seized and held pending an appeal, keeping communities safer from dangerous dogs.
    • Requires kennels to obtain the appropriate type and class of license for their operation.
    • Provides stiffer penalties for those found operating illegal kennels, and increased penalties for all dog law violators.
    • Provides isolation requirements after a dog is imported as a proactive step in disease control and prevention, providing increased protection from disease for dogs, and preventing consumers from bringing sick dogs into their homes.
    • Allows the department to revoke a kennel’s license or refuse a kennel license application from individuals convicted of animal cruelty.  

Enhanced Transparency  

    • Requires kennels to include their federal, state or local license number to in any advertisement offering dogs for sale. This will allow the department to quickly determine whether a kennel is operating illegally and allow potential customers to look up the kennel’s inspection history to make informed decisions.   
    • Requires those selling dogs directly to the public to post the dog’s identifying information, the location of the breeder, state or federal license number, documentation of all vaccinations, and any known bite history.  

Organizations in Support of Act 18

    • Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association [PVMA]   
    • Humane Society of the United States [HSUS]   
    • Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [PSPCA]   
    • Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia [ACCT Philly]   
    • Pennsylvania State Police [PSP]   
    • Pennsylvania Farm Bureau [PFB]    
    • Dog Law Advisory Board [DLAB]   
    • United Against Puppy Mills [UAPM]   
    • County Treasurers Association Pennsylvania [CTAPA]   
    • Chester County Police Chiefs Association [CCPCA]   
    • Willow Spring Kennel    
    • Denver Borough, Lancaster County   
    • Honeybrook Township, Chester County