Pa. overreaches on dog licenses
The current crackdown on unlicensed dogs is needed, with only about half of dog owners in Lancaster County having them for their pets.
But we strongly object to the manner in which the crackdown is sometimes being carried out.
A stranger walks up to the front door of your home, flashes a badge that identifies him as a state dog warden and asks whether you have a dog or whether the dog you have is properly licensed.
You hesitate as the stranger peers over your shoulder, looking for one or more of the animals.
Keep in mind, the stranger is on private property and demanding information from you with the authority typically used by a police officer.
Being the honest person you are, you admit Fido's license isn't current.
The stranger hands you an official-looking citation from the state of Pennsylvania and goes on his way.
You watch as he walks over to your neighbor's house, where the sound of a barking dog can be heard.
In America, where property rights are supposed to be sacrosanct -- a man's home is his castle -- such an exchange is unthinkable. Or so people thought.
Yet, it is being repeated across Lancaster County -- at least 25 citations have been handed out, most likely under the circumstances described above.
"We mean business," growled one of the two dog wardens assigned to the county. "That's why we're citing. People definitely need a license for their dog."
First-time offenders face fines of $50, plus court costs of $30-$40. The maximum fine is $300.
So, why the crackdown?
The state apparently wants to stanch the decline in the number of dog licenses around the commonwealth. (Tag sales here have fallen 7 percent since 2008.) With the decline comes an attendant drop in revenue. One dollar from each license sold goes to the respective county; the state gets the rest.
On whose authority do dog wardens have the right to traipse on private property and issue citations? Where is the warrant?
It would be one thing to be approached on a public street or at a public park and to be questioned about the status of a pet's license. But not on private property.
Should dogs be licensed? Absolutely. Should the dog-license police have a free hand to enter private property willy-nilly and hand out citations? No.
The state should abandon this serious overreach of authority and, instead, respect the rights of property owners.
The state has dubbed March as "Dog License Awareness Month." Better that it be a month dedicated to a better appreciation of property rights.
The state apparently wants to stanch the decline in the number of dog licenses around the commonwealth.