Law turns out to be a real dog
In a belated reaction to Pennsylvania's long-standing status as the puppy mill capital of the East, the Legislature passed a law in 2008 that was meant to crack down on disreputable kennels and breeders.
A dispiriting new report by the state auditor general's office contends that the law was tough only on paper because the state government has done a poor enforcement job. The performance audit of the Department of Agriculture's Dog Law enforcement office covered four state fiscal years from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2012.
"Enforcement was so poor that there was little impact to alleviate puppy mill conditions," Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said. "As a result of lax enforcement, people could be exposed to dangerous dogs, consumers could be emotionally and financially affected by sick dogs from puppy mills and the dogs themselves could be physically harmed by living in unhealthy conditions."
Those conditions are exactly what the law was passed to prevent. And, according to the auditor general, the lack of enforcement was the result of more than mere incompetence.
He was "appalled" to learn, he said, "that it turns out the department knew there were violations of the law and instead of correcting the problems they decided not to conduct inspections." Rather than enforcing the law by regulating the kennel business, as directed by the Legislature, the administration "made a conscious decision to work with the kennel owners rather than citing them for not being in compliance," Mr. DePasquale said.
The office did not even track dog sales to determine which breeding kennels should be regulated, and it failed to train dog wardens to enforce the law.
The issue isn't simply humane treatment of animals, which should be enough. It's about the protection of consumers who are ripped off by unscrupulous breeders.
Gov. Tom Corbett, whose first nominee to head the office was uniquely unqualified, should see that the law is enforced.