City Council Committee OKs New Philadelphia Dog Laws

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With dogged determination, animal rights advocates watched on Thursday as a Philadelphia City Council committee approved a measure that puts some bite into the city’s dog control laws.

The measure encourages both dog licensing and neutering. Included in the measure is a new requirement on groups or organizations that sell dogs or put them up for adoption that any dog released must be neutered.

Dana Spain, founder of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (“PAWS”), is delighted.

“The spay/neuter components — specifically requiring alteration surgery before animals are released by a pet store, breeder or rescue — are tantamount to stemming the tide of overpopulation in our city shelters,” she told KYW Newsradio.

Guide dogs and show breeds are exempted from the neutering requirement.

Also in the measure is a requirement that all veterinarians must ask for a dog license during an exam.  If the owner doesn’t produce one, they’d be given the chance to sign up then and there.  If they won’t, the vet must notify the city.

Dogs are currently required to be licensed in Philadelphia but officials estimate only about four percent are.

Spain, who spent five years working on the legislation, says licenses are vital.

“It facilitates the return of a dog that may get loose to its owner, instead of going to a shelter environment,” she says.  “It allows us, in the case of bites or strays, to track back to the owners.  And it also brings much needed funds into the animal control system.”

And owners would have a slight incentive for neutering: the license fee would be $16 for neutered dogs, $40 for those that are not.

The bill is expected to be approved by the full City Council later this month and signed by the mayor.

Reported by KYW Newsradio City Hall Bureau chief Mike Dunn.

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  • Not Impressed

    And what I am concerned about the health risks of neutering my dog? Are there no exemptions?

    Maybe they should have taken a stab at enforcing the laws that are already on the books (licensing) before making new ones!

    LOL @ ‘Show breeds’ What is considered a ‘show breed’ v.s. what’s not?

    And no one should suggest that government take money from a privately run non-profit (PAWS) and allocate it to a state funded organization (PSPCA). That would be theft. That’s like saying the Red Cross is redundant because we have FEMA. LOL

    Does anyone have a link to the actual law? Reporters like to leave out a lot o facts!

    • Liz

      The PSPCA is NOT a state-funded organization. They receive no money from the state whatsoever.

      A “show” breed is an AKC-registered purebred dog that is entered into conformation shows. I would think that showing proof of entrance would identify a dog as a “show” dog.

  • Garrett Elwood

    Licensing is a PA STATE LAW and is nothing new in Philadelphia. See Philadelphia city code 10-103 (Licensing and Rabies Vaccination). Philadelphia is only 5% compliant and $15 is the National Average according to the ASPCA. In New Hampshire after a similar program was launched the euthanasia rate declined 77% to one of the lowest nationwide.

    Concerns about people not taking their dogs to the vet are unfounded and alarmist. We have a serious problem in Philadelphia and need real solutions. Every year over 30,000 animals enter the animal control system and 50% of the dogs and 70% of the cats are killed. The additional revenue from licensing will directly benefit the animals by funding lifesaving programs.

    As far and PAWS and PSPCA being redundant, that’s absurd. We are one of the largest cities in the Nation and need MORE animal rescues, wellness clinics and low cost spay neuter facilities not fewer. PAWS and the PSPCA are entirely donor funded and don’t burden the taxpayers, but provide valuable services to the people of Philadelphia. Overall, animal welfare organizations only receive about 1% of total giving and it’s not enough. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to save the lives of the animals in Philadelphia.

    I am proud to support this legislation and am optimistic that it will benefit the animals in Philadelphia.

    • Garrett Elwood

      State Law Citation – § 459-201. Applications for dog licenses; fees; penalties

  • Dana G

    People should be CELEBRATING the focus on neuter/spaying! That alone will save so many lives and so many unwanted animals that end up in kill shelters.
    Many are killed because local shelters run out of room, and enough fosters can’t be found, especially when they raid dog fighting rings – like NOW -if you say other wise, you’re NOT paying attention.

    Right now ACCT is full and they are going to have to euthanize for space. Kitty season is coming up and they will have to euthanize KITTENS for space.

    Please help them. Stop by – go offer to foster at ACCT. Put the word out that the animals need help. Stop criticizing – go help those animals.

  • concerned

    I have several concerns with this proposal, but one of most frightening repercussions stems from the item that vets will be required to report those whose dogs are not licensed. This will potentially result in people choosing not to take their dog to the vet when it needs vet care.

  • bottomline

    My main concerns are the city using animal welfare to garner cash, and once the city gets their hands on a good money maker, their encroachment will increase. Meaning more cash and regulation with less benefits to our animals and their owners.
    If the SPCA needs more capitol, it makes more sense, and is more efficient to take funds that are going to “PAWS” and give it to the SPCA.

    • Kelsey

      Your lack of knowledge is overwhelming. Please educate yourself before making uninformed, ridiculous statements. Don’t you realize they are both shelters saving lives? It’s borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Animals need new funds to support the lifesaving measures to keep them alive and get them adopted.

    • Michael

      Your comment makes no sense. PAWS doesn’t get a single cent from the city. The only money that the PSPCA gets is to run ACCT on Hunting Park Ave — they can’t use any of that money to run the shelter on Erie Avenue (which includes the humane officers who investigate cruelty).

      • Michael

        Um, no, bottomline, PAWS is not “redundant.” The PSPCA has a finite number of kennels. Do you think the PSPCA and/or ACCT could possibly house every single homeless animal? Isn’t ACCT’s euthanasia rate high enough as it is? The city needs PAWS. Actually, it needs four or five more organizations like PAWS.

      • bottomline

        Michael: My point is, regardless of the cities funding or not funding, “PAWS” is a redundant operation which has necessarily includes additional overhead, as opposed to directing those funds to the SPCA.

  • Liz

    My question meant, was there some other municipality that suddenly enforced an existing law that requires a dog license, and dog owners suddenly, en masse, stopped taking their dogs to the vet?

    If you can’t afford a $16 dog license, you have no business owning a dog.

    And I still think you’re a “dooms-day-ist” — like the people who say, “You can’t charge a fee to someone who wants to surrender their dog to animal control! They’ll just start dumping their dogs at the side of the road!”

    And guess what? Animal Controls around the country started charging a nominal fee to surrender an animal. And people paid it. There was no increase of people dumping their dogs at the side of the road.

    • Marguerite

      I’m not aware of another municipality that enacted a law this stupid. Not only will people avoid taking unlicensed dogs to the vet, how are you going to force vets to comply with the law? How are you going to punish them? Another municipality that engaged in punitive licensing enforcement practices that resulted in fewer licenses being sold was Kansas City. KC residents actively avoid licensing because of regressive sheltering and animal control policies. Recent efforts to step up enforcement of the licensing law has actually had the result of causing the KC citizens to view animal control with even more distrust.

      Your elitist attitude about who can or cannot afford to own a dog is just one more symptom of traditional failed animal control policies.

      In Calgary, if a dog is found loose and it has a license, the animal control officer picks up the dog AND TAKES IT HOME. In Calgary, a license is a free ride home. Cat owners in Calgary are lobbying to have cats licensed. Because animal control efforts are aimed at returning lost dogs to owners, dog owners in Calgary are very willing to license their dogs. You cannot say that about Philly. How many lost dogs have been killed, even when the owner has made repeated contacts with the shelter that actually had the dog but the shelter employee answering the phone didn’t bother to check either the records or the cages. As rapidly as dogs are killed in Philly shelters, if an owner doesn’t camp out in one shelter and have friends and family camp out in the others, it is all too likely their dog will be killed before they can find and reclaim it.

      There is a huge progressive shelter reform effort moving through out this country and even overseas. That movement is based on the mind blowing concept that people are the solution to the shelter population problem, not the cause. Laws like this that are designed to punish people for not licensing their dogs, instead of policies that incentivize licensing always fail. Always. You cannot name one community in the US or anywhere else where punitive laws aimed at forcing people to license their dogs works. The only community on the planet that I have found that has virtually 100% licensing compliance is Calgary. They don’t use punitive laws.

      I don’t know where you get your information, but dog abandonment is increasing around the country, particularly where fees are established to accept either owner relinquished dogs or stray dogs. Some people pay the fees, others dump the dogs and not always where the dogs will survive.

      I’m on the side of the dogs and the owners of the dogs. Whose side are you on?

      • Liz

        I am very much on the side of the animals. Hence why my 3 dogs are licensed.

        I’m well aware that “abandonment” (though, for the sake of clarity, I prefer to call it surrendering) is on the rise. However, I used “abandonment” in a way that suggests that owners drop their dogs off on the side of the road AS OPPOSED TO at a shelter. And I learned from an animal control officer from some western state that currently slips my mind (he was at the No Kill Conference) that requesting fees for surrendering an animal DOES NOT increase abandonment.

        So, what “incentive” do you propose Philadelphia offer? Free puppies for everyone? Philadelphia does not have the manpower (thanks to the low funding from the Dept of Health) to pick up every stray dog that is reported and take them home. Hence why the Animal Control Shelter hired a “Lost and Found” staff member to search for the owners of dogs brought in as strays. Her job would be MUCH EASIER if owners complied with licensing laws.

        And incidentally, maybe the shelter could offer more services to reunite owners with their lost dogs if funding generated by enforcement of this law was directed toward Animal Control.

  • Liz

    Marguerite, cite your precedence that states that this law will decrease animal attendance at the vet.

    As someone else said, the SPCA is NOT doing a fine job in enforcing licensing. You sound like a “dooms-day” kind of person. It’s sad, really.

    And to bottomline — PAWS and the SPCA have different missions. The SPCA investigates animal cruelty. PAWS is a no-kill rescue that saves a majority of their dogs from the city’s high-kill Animal Control shelter.

    • Marguerite

      Liz, your request puzzles me. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “precedence” as follows:
      “1. The fact, state, or right of preceding; priority: Applications arriving first will receive precedence.
      2. Priority claimed or received because of preeminence or superiority: The company asserted its precedence as the leading manufacturer of microchips.
      3. A ceremonial order of rank or preference, especially as observed on formal occasions: Recipients of military honors were called in order of precedencehighest ranking officers first.”

      If you’re interested in why I said what I did, it is because people who do not license dogs, for whatever reason, will not suddenly start doing so because the vet requires them to. If they are faced with the option of adding more expense to an already expensive vet bill or not going at all, if the visit is elective, they won’t go at all. If you want to see more people license their dogs, give them a reason to want to do it instead of beating over the head with penalties for not doing it. They figured that out in Calgary. Are Canadians smarter than the people who live in Philly?

  • Marguerite

    This law is a bad idea. People will avoid taking their unlicensed pets to a vet, foregoing needed vaccines. Turning vets into animal cops doesn’t build good client relationships. It also appears that this law will require pediatric spays and neuters, which have been shown (in published research reports) to increase health problems in dogs and cats.

    Calgary Canada has virtually 100% licensing compliance. They also do not have mandatory spay/neuter laws or breed specific laws or dog limit laws. They have eliminated shelter killing and the number of dog bites has declined, even though the human and canine population has increased.

    Why doesn’t the council look at communities that are successful in controlling shelter overcrowding without killing and do what they are doing?

  • grumpy

    Where is Michael Vick’s contribution? Didn’t he just get a LARGE salary increase?

  • Erika Stephanie

    …but the SPCA isn’t doing a completely fine job. The SPCA is overworked and underfunded. They need help, which is where PAWS and similar groups and organizations come in. They work TOGETHER to give the animals the help they need. And, for those who have never adopted through the SPCA, they require that the animals be licensed, too. This is nothing new for those of us who have adopted through them for years.

  • bottomline

    We’ve banned fat and other things, why not just ban animal ownership altogether, but I guess this solution doesn’t generate cash for the kitty.
    Speaking of money, why do we need “PAWS” if we have the SPCA , which has been doing a fine job for years, without making spies out of the doctors.

    • jo

      You know nothing about what kind of “fine job” the SPCA has been doing, nor about the relationship between PAWS and the SPCA. The SPCA is a nonprofit which currently runs ACCT, the city [under] funded shelter, which must take in any animal brought to it. PAWS pulls some of these animals from ACCT to rehab them and find them homes. ACCT unfortunately is a “kill shelter” for many reasons I won’t go into here. PAWS is a no kill rescue, just like many other small groups in and around Philadelphia. If you think that the SPCA with or without ACCT can handle the 30000 animals/yr that get surrendered or picked up as strays without the help of every one of these groups without increasing it’s euthanasia rate, you are ignorant of the true state of animal welfare in this city.

    • danielle

      We need PAWS because they pull 99% of their animals from ACCT. If we didn’t have PAWS thousands more animals would die from overcrowding at animal control. PAWS is a rescue which is donor funded so they do not get any money from the city. Neither does the PSPCA which also pulls animals from ACCT.

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