Pennsylvania Dog Law

I took some time to try and figure what would be the best blog to kick off the New Year. There were a few topics that came to mind but I settled on Pennsylvania Dog Laws. The reason I chose it is because any dog three months or older must be licensed by Jan. 1 of each year. There is a lot more to the PA dog law then just licenses though. This blog will discuss several aspects of the dog law including licensing, rabies laws, and leash laws.


Now, I know that for some people out there, the dog law is a touchy subject and they do not have very high regards for the officers that uphold these laws, which I don’t understand.  These officers are just doing their job.  However, I also don’t understand the people who get upset over the wait-staff when their food doesn’t come out in a timely manner. But that is a “soapbox” for another day. Dog Law Officers protect the community just like Police officers but instead of helping in aspects of people care – Dog Law Officers help in aspects of animal and people care.

Below are just a few services the Dog Law Officers provide:

  • Advise victims of their rights and owners of their responsibilities in bite cases.
  • Protect the community by filing and looking after dangerous dogs.
  • Protect citizens and the welfare of the dogs that are running at large.
  • If livestock is attacked, Dog Law Officers can provide farmers protection and funding for their losses.
  • Inspect state licensed kennels ensuring people are taking care of the breeding dogs and puppies.
  • Inspect boarding kennels ensuring people’s dogs are in a safe, clean environment.


Remember, any dog law officer can randomly stop in a neighborhood to see if dogs in the neighborhood have a current rabies vaccine and license.


On to important information regarding dog laws.




Like I said earlier, all dogs three months or older must be licensed by Jan. 1 of each year. Current price for an annual license for a female or male is $8.50. Another great reason to spay or neuter your dog is if they are altered, the annual license fee is $6.50.  There are discounts available to senior citizens and people with disabilities. Regardless of when you bought a license (i.e. in June), annual licenses are due January 1st each year and expire December 31st same year.  Don’t procrastinate – it could cost you up to a $300 fine, per dog, if you are caught without a current (or lifetime) license.  The new licenses always go on sale December 1st of each year to give people a month to get licenses for the following year. The PA department of agriculture website has the dog license application form.   There is another great option available to dog owners who would like to get a discount and not have to worry about remembering to buy a license each year. It is called a Lifetime license. There are a few rules regarding a lifetime license. Your dog must be either microchipped or have a tattoo. There is an additional application form for the lifetime license. The tattoo number is provided by the state at the County Treasurer’s office and the tattoo must be applied by a licensed veterinarian. Your dog will have to be sedated for the tattoo to be applied. Our clinic does not have the equipment to tattoo your pet. Also, after a few years, the tattoo fades and with the amount of fur a dog has, it makes it very difficult to read.  A better option is microchipping. Your dog will not have to be sedated to have a microchip implanted and it offers many more benefits that I will discuss in next week’s blog. A lifetime license for a female or male is $51.50. For a spayed female or neutered male, the lifetime license is $31.50. So, for example, if you have a spayed female with a microchip, the lifetime license more than pays for itself in five years and considering most dogs live much longer than that, it is a very good investment.


Again, if your dog is found without a current license, violators can be cited with a maximum fine of $300 per violation plus court costs.


Don’t worry! If you move to another county you are required to change your address with the treasurer’s offices in each county.  There are no charges to change address but there is a minimal fee for new tags.


Two very important things to remember if you move: update the address and phone number changes with the county and with the microchip company so that if your dog does become lost and someone finds it with proper tags and a microchip, they can get it back to you more quickly.


Also, if you get a dog or puppy over 3 months of age, licenses can be transferred from one owner to another owner through the Treasurer’s office at no charge if you still have the tags.  But licenses cannot be transferred from one dog to another dog. If a person moves into PA from out of state, they have 30 days to get a license.


You can send the forms and a check made out to County Treasurer. For a list of your treasurer office, visit PA Dept. of Ag website.


One more note on licenses: When a dog leaves the owner’s residence, (i.e. to go for a walk with the owner, car ride, to boarding kennel or Vet office), by law the dog must have the licensed collar.  Regardless of whether they have an annual or lifetime license, the license needs to be on their collar. If you don’t like your dog to have a collar on inside the home, I would recommend a “travel” collar with the license and rabies tags attached to it.




Since Rabies is a fatal zoonotic disease, all states, including PA, are very strict about their rabies laws.  All dogs 3 months and older must have a current rabies vaccine.


Any cat that spends any time in your house and is over 3 months of age, must also have a current rabies vaccination as well.


You can be fined up to $300 per pet if you do not have a current rabies vaccine.


Leash Laws


Pennsylvania does not have a leash law – but a control law. The law states “all dogs must always be under the reasonable control of some person.” Which really means young children shouldn’t be walking the dog around the neighborhood. There are fines if your dog is found running at large. There is a $500 maximum summary fine for the first violation. If your dog is found running at large a second time within 12 months of a summary conviction, you can be charged with misdemeanor 3 – which is $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Also, keep in mind: dogs are considered personal property – you are responsible for any damages caused by your dog.


Other noteworthy items:

  • No dog under eight weeks old may be traded, sold, or transferred.
  • Barking dogs, the numbers of dogs in a household and wasted disposal on property are all governed by ordinances within your township, borough or municipality. You would have to check with them (and not dog law officers) to have help in those areas.
  • Cruelty and abuse concerns have to be addressed by Humane Police Officers (not dog law officers). To find your local Humane Police Officer, go to PA Dept of Ag HPO registry.

For more in-depth information regarding dog law, visit PA Dog Law.

By following these rather simple rules, you can enjoy the pleasures of a four-legged companion without paying huge PA fines.



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