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Dog law may help solve warden shortage

December 04, 1996

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania officials hope a proposed hike in dog license fees will help end a shortage of dog wardens in the region.

The fees were hiked in a bill passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature. Gov. Tom Ridge is expected to sign the measure.

In the eight-county central region, which covers Franklin and Fulton counties, five dog wardens are responsible for picking up all stray dogs, said Rick Burd, administrative officer for the Pennsylvania Agriculture Department's Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.

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The region used to have eight dog wardens, one of whom had an office in Chambersburg, he said.

That warden was fired in August and never replaced. Burd would not say why the warden was fired, only that it was a "personnel issue."

As a result, dog law enforcement is sometimes left begging.

In addition to picking up strays, dog wardens inspect all kennels, make sure dogs are being licensed and dogs and cats are being vaccinated for rabies, Burd said.

"It makes enforcement difficult when you have less officers per area," he said.

In many cases, it is all the dog wardens can do to keep up with complaints, he said.

Burd couldn't say whether a new dog warden would be based in Chambersburg.

The new dog wardens would be assigned to areas with the most need, he said.

There was some confusion Monday about how much county treasurer's offices should now charge for dog licenses.

As a result, licenses are not being sold in Franklin County, officials said.

The fee increase is the first one in 14 years, and the age at which a dog must be licensed will be lowered from six months to three months.

The number of licensed-qualified dogs in Pennsylvania range between 1.5 million and 2 million, but only a third to half are licensed, according to state officials.

Under the bill, the Agriculture Department must adopt a strategy to increase license sales, whether through advertising or the hiring of new licensing agents, and make plans to hire an adequate number of wardens.

The department also must develop training requirements for wardens, and submit a report to the Legislature on all dog law activities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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