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Pennsylvania Dog Law Bureau
Sits on $15 Million Slush Fund

Legality Of Some Grant Awards Questionable

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 Your participation and membership are very important. We maintain strict independence, and 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 show:

· $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 sources.

· $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 unspecified "commitments."

· 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 29, 2008

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 treatment…."

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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