Who Should You Call for Humane Help?

By Krista Koontz, Humane Society Police Officer

There is often some confusion about the various roles of Humane Society Police Officers (HSPOs), State Dog Wardens and Animal Control Officers when it comes to enforcing laws that protect animals. While all of these positions deal with animal issues and concerns, what they are permitted to do by law is very different.

HSPOs are authorized to enforce and investigate reports of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse under the Pennsylvania crimes code. Some examples of the crimes that fall under this code include failure to provide adequate food and water, failure to provide proper shelter, lack of adequate veterinary care, animal abuse, improper tethering and animal fighting. HSPOs have jurisdiction in the county they are sworn in and must be part of a humane society or association before opening an investigation.

State Dog Wardens are employed under the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and are assigned to specific counties. Dog Wardens are responsible for inspecting kennels, enforcing kennel licensing, enforcing conditions imposed by a dangerous dog designation and enforcing laws regarding rabies vaccines and dog licensing. They also investigate dog bites, enforce quarantine of dogs and seize dogs who are running at large. The list of Dog Warden contacts by county can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website.

Animal Control Officers are authorized to enforce parts of the Pennsylvania Dog Law as well as specific ordinances in the municipality they work. Animal Control is responsible for enforcing rabies vaccines and licensing, local animal ordinances and responding to calls about stray animals. Not every municipality has a designated Animal Control Department, so in some cases the duties may be contracted out to a local shelter.

It is important to know what resources are available in your municipality when it comes to animal law. Be sure to look up your local HSPO, State Dog Warden and Animal Control Officer in your area so you can be prepared to help out an animal in need.

If you have witnessed animal cruelty in Allegheny County, contact our Humane Investigations team to give your eyewitness report at 412.847.7066.

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