Pennsylvania Dog Law Bureau
Sits on $15 Million Slush Fund
Legality Of Some Grant Awards Questionable
by JOHN YATES
The American Sporting Dog Alliance
(This is the fourth in a series of special reports that will be
released in the days prior to the publication of proposed kennel
legislation and revised kennel regulations in Pennsylvania. This
issue is of vital concern to everyone who has a kennel or owns a
dog. The American Sporting Dog Alliance works at the grassroots
level to protect the rights of people who own or work with dogs of
the sporting breeds. Our focus is on informing people about the
issues, providing a way to take direct personal action, tracking
votes in the Legislature, taking legal action, and convincing
elected officials to do what's right. Please visit us on the web at
http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org. Your participation and
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are supported solely by the donations of our members.)
HARRISBURG, Pa. – What on Earth does the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog
Law Enforcement plan to do with a cool $15 million that it has
socked away in the bank?
This slush fund is not allocated for budgeted expenditures, an
investigation by The American Sporting Dog Alliance (ASDA) reveals.
It's just sitting in the bank and waiting…for something.
How big is this unallocated chunk of money? It is big enough to pay
for the budgeted activities of the entire Bureau for the next two
and a half years. It also is big enough to pay for a lot of other
possibilities that we can only speculate about.
State officials have not been cooperative with the ASDA
investigation. We have made repeated requests for documents from key
administrators in the Bureau, in the Department of Agriculture and
the Governor's Office. These requests have been ignored.
However, we were able to obtain the information ourselves from
archived financial reports in the Office of Budget.
Budget documents break down the finances of the Dog Law Restricted
Account, which pays for the Bureau's activities. The fund collects
money from the sale of county dog licenses, state kennel licenses,
state dealer licenses, fines, penalties and a variety of other
sources. It spends the money to pay for the costs of the Bureau's
activities, and to provide grants and reimbursements.
For the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2007, the documents
· $15.9 million was carried over as unspent money from the
previous fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2007. This is money the
Bureau had in its piggybank but did not spend.
· The current year's budget projects $6.9 million in revenues
received for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. This is the money that the
Bureau hauls in from license fees, fines, penalties and other
· $6.9 million has been budgeted to pay for the actual cost of
running the Bureau, and an additional $565,403 is budgeted to cover
· This leaves a balance of $15.4 million in the projected
slush fund for the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2008.
· However, February 29, 2008, budget documents show that the
Bureau already has overspent this budget by about $700,000 (the
amount the slush fund was reduced below projected amounts to cover
unbudgeted expenditures), with four months remaining in the fiscal
year. We don't know where this money went, although our sources tell
us that some of it may have been spent to cover the costs of
drafting new legislation and regulations.
· $14.7 million still remained in the slush fund on February
That's a lot of money!
What will it be used for?
We don't know.
We do know what the law says it can be used for. We do know what
some of it has been used for. We can make some educated guesses. But
we don't know what Bureau officials and Gov. Ed Rendell actually
plan to do with this huge pile of money, and they aren't saying.
We also know that draft versions of a proposed revision to the state
dog laws and kennel regulations call for the probable stepped-up
seizure of dogs from non-compliant kennels, payments to shelters and
rescue groups to take care of those dogs, payments to veterinarians
to treat those dogs, and large increases in license fees, fines and
penalties that would cause this slush fund to grow rapidly.
Let's start with the law itself.
The Dog Law says that the Restricted Account was created as a
repository for revenues, to cover Bureau operating expenses, and to
reimburse counties and animal shelters for caring for dogs that are
seized or impounded by dog wardens. Article X details the program.
Shelters are reimbursed at $5 per day for every dog they take in
from a warden, if the owner of the dog or dogs won't pay.
Section B of Article X details some possibilities for how the slush
fund could be spent. We quote:
"(B) SURPLUS FUNDS.-- The secretary may declare that there is a
surplus of money in the Dog Law Restricted Account. The secretary
may authorize additional payments to the counties, except (emphasis
on this word is ours) to counties of the first class, municipalities
and to humane societies or associations for the prevention of
cruelty to animals from any amount declared to be surplus. Such
payments shall be based on the (Agriculture) secretary's evaluation
pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated under this act."
Despite the above prohibition against using this money to help
humane societies, the Bureau does just that. An announcement on the
Bureau's 2008 grant program was published in The Pennsylvania
Bulletin. It says:
"Dog Control Facility Bill Reimbursement Grant
The Department of Agriculture (Department) gives notice
of the guidelines and conditions under which it will
award up to $750,000 in grants under the Year 2008 Dog
Control Facility Bill Reimbursement Program (Program).
The Program will award bill reimbursement grants of up
to $15,000 per recipient to humane societies or associations
for the prevention of cruelty to animals that meet
the guidelines and conditions of this Program. The Program
will be funded from the Dog Law Restricted Account
from funds which are declared to be ``surplus'' funds for
the limited purposes set forth in section 1002(b) of the
Dog Law (3 P. S. § 459-1002(b))."
This program appears to be a violation of the dog law that was
quoted above, which prohibits using surplus funds for humane
societies and similar programs.
The publication also details another apparent violation of the Dog
Law. The grant program announcement says that funds will be
available to pay for "veterinarian services with respect to which
the invoice identifies the dog treated and the reason for the
Article X of the law says: "No funds credited to the restricted
account created by this section shall be used for government
subsidized veterinary services."
We cannot explain these apparent discrepancies between the law and
the Bureau's grant program.
Our research has shown that these legally questionable grant
payments have been made to humane societies, animal shelters and
veterinarians back through and including the 2005 fiscal year. We
did not look further back in time than 2005.
We can only speculate about the planned uses of the Bureau's roughly
$15 million slush fund in the future.
We do know that all drafts of the proposed new kennel laws and
regulations impose much more strict standards, and provide the
almost certain probability that more dogs will be seized and
impounded, and that more shelter facilities likely will be needed to
care for these dogs and kill the ones that are not returned to their
owners or adopted. The grant fund also provides euthanasia funding
for impounded dogs.
Impounding dogs already is big business for the Bureau. The Bureau's
most recent required annual report to the Legislature shows that
more than $1 million was handed out to animal shelters and counties
in grants in 2006.
An additional $356,000 was given to counties and shelters for
reimbursements for housing 17,796 dogs that were seized or impounded
by state wardens, the 2006 report shows.
Under the Dog Law, the Bureau must make its 2007 report to the
Legislature by March 1, 2008. This date has passed, and the report
still is not available on Bureau or Legislature websites. Our
requests for this report have been ignored.
Draft versions of proposed new legislation also would add
enforcement of animal cruelty statutes to state dog wardens' duties,
and we believe this would place a serious strain on existing
manpower. This program also would require additional work to
prosecute alleged violations, as animal cruelty is a criminal
offense. We doubt that dog wardens would be able to handle the
prosecution in a court of law, as many of the defendants would have
attorneys in criminal trials. Thus we would expect that the Bureau
would have to hire more special prosecutors to handle this increased
workload. New regulations also would make kennel inspections far
more time-consuming and this, too, would strain manpower. These
would be logical uses for the budget surplus, but we cannot confirm
that this is the plan.
At present, documents show, the Bureau has dog wardens assigned to
each of the state's 67 counties, plus a team of special statewide
dog wardens nicknamed the "SWAT Team," 124 additional Humane
Society police officers, and has a full-time prosecutor.
The expanded duties and more complex regulations thus would seem to
require a large increase in personnel costs for the Bureau.
Those speculations, however, would not fully explain the planned
uses for the $15 million slush fund.
Any speculation beyond this point would be just a wild guess. We
will leave that to our readers' imaginations, in the absence of
candor from the Bureau and Gov. Rendell.
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