Williamsport has been marked as a target area for dog wardens, who soon will begin canvassing neighborhoods across the county, looking for homes with unlicensed dogs.
The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is funded through the sale of dog licenses. As part of the state Department of Agriculture, it receives no revenue from tax dollars.
"Over the last five or six years, license sales have dropped by about 5,000," said Scott Shurer, Lycoming county dog warden.
"The agency is seeing its revenue decrease because of a lack of license sales and the number of dog owners who have switched over to lifetime licenses," he added.
According to Shurer, the price of a dog license had remained the same for the last 16 years. This year, due to the decrease in sales, the price of a dog license recently was raised by 45 cents.
Dog licenses can be acquired through the county treasurer's office. For animals that are spayed or neutered, a license will cost $6.45. It will cost $8.45 to license a dog that is not spayed or neutered.
Although the price of a license is nominal, those who fail to comply with the law face steep fines. One unlicensed animal can cost its owner $50 to $300 in fines, not counting court fees.
"In the past, I've tried to be lenient with people because it's only $8. But, this year, there is a push to enforce the law more and write more citations, in hopes of making people more compliant," Shurer said.
In addition to enforcing state licensing and vaccination laws, the agency also provides kennel inspections for breeders and pet stores, picks up stray animals, responds to reports of dangerous dogs and reimburses farmers for canine-specific livestock deaths or damage.
All of these programs have felt the budget crunch, forcing the agency to take a stronger stand on license enforcement, according to Shurer.
He explained that groups of dog wardens will travel together to various neighborhoods across multiple counties. However, due to Williamsport's size, the city likely will receive special attention.
"We're trying to get the word out there now so people have time to get their animals licensed and get in compliance with the law," Shurer said.