States act to protect animals left outside in cold weather

By on January 9, 2019 with 19 Comments

Late last year, Pennsylvania investigators found a dog named Cam dead and frozen solid on a heavy chain, wedged between a small dog house and a fence. He appeared to have been digging for warmth when he died. As heartbreaking as this story is, unfortunately, it is not an uncommon one this time of year. As temperature dip punishingly low – accompanied by ice, snow and wind – the body count of animals left to freeze outside by owners begins to mount.

This has been an important issue for the Humane Society of the United States, and one on which we have focused our attention and resources for many years now. As we do with every animal protection issue we tackle, we have attacked this problem at different levels: by educating the public about responsible animal care and the need to protect companion animals from cold weather; by training law enforcement officers in many cruelty issues, including how to assess whether a dog has proper protections and pursuing investigations; and finally through changing state laws to protect the thousands of American dogs who live outdoors.

In 2018, we made more progress across the country with a number of state legislatures and local governments passing protections for dogs who live outdoors. With HSUS support, advocates took this issue to their local commissioners and hundreds of local ordinances now set humane standards for chaining, demand that dogs be brought inside during extreme weather, or require proper shelter from the elements.

In the past few weeks alone, communities in Buffalo, New York; La Grange, Georgia; and Mebane City, North Carolina, have passed ordinances to prevent dogs from spending their entire lives at the end of a chain.

We have had tremendous victories at the state level, too. Dogs in Rhode Island will be brought inside starting this month, thanks to a comprehensive upgrade to the animal cruelty law signed by the governor last year. As many state legislators head back to work this month, we hope they will follow Rhode Island’s lead. The HSUS is supporting and pushing for similar legislation in more than a dozen states. Some of the proposed bills, including bills in Delaware, Indiana and Virginia, will fix loopholes in existing language and others will create basic standards where there are none. Our goal in every state is to provide relief to dogs who live outdoors by creating clear, reasonable standards of care.

To ensure that law enforcement agencies have the proper tools, the HSUS’s Law Enforcement Training Center has been training thousands of officers each year on assessing whether a dog has proper protections and how to pursue investigations when conditions become criminal. The widely celebrated passage of Libre’s Law in Pennsylvania brought about significant changes, including enhancements for dogs who live outdoors. The training center partnered with agencies throughout the state to provide free trainings to officers who are now tasked with enforcing the new provisions. Pennsylvania will also soon introduce a bill to protect dogs by establishing definitive standards for outdoor shelter, and preventing them from being left outside during extreme weather.

If you have pets, be sure to keep them sheltered and preferably indoors. Here are some tips on how to protect outdoor animals, including cats. And if you encounter a pet left in the cold, politely let the owner know you’re concerned. Some people genuinely don’t know the risk that cold weather poses to their pets or livestock, and will be quick to correct any problems you address. If someone you raise these concerns with responds poorly or their animals continue to be in danger, follow our steps on reporting winter-time neglect.

The woman responsible for Cam’s terrible death was found guilty of felony animal cruelty, and properly so. At the same time, we can all agree that dogs deserve better than the fate Cam suffered. This legislative session, as we have in previous years, the HSUS will work alongside advocates and legislators to ensure dogs receive proper protections under the law, including an upgraded shelter definition in Cam’s state of Pennsylvania. No dog deserves to be left outside to suffer in cold weather, and we are fighting hard to make sure no dog is.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Diana fink says:

    I think they should have strict laws punishing people for neglecting their animals. Too much of this is going on with no punishment. I’m a firm believer that animals should be treated humanely. There is no reason any animal should be abused…. and this includes leaving them in inhumane weather conditions- hot or cold!!!!!!!

    • CKD says:

      I can’t speak for other states’ laws but I can speak for West Virginia. Believe it or not, we have very good comprehensive animal welfare laws. Where most of the cases get into trouble is when they go to the court system. Our A/C officers do a very good job but too often the courts allow “plea deals” to be made and offenders get off with minimum fines and no jail time. Occasionally, if there is an exceptionally egregious neglect/abuse case, the courts will dole out proper punishment but more often than not, our good laws are enforced but then the courts do not had out the punishment most of us feel they should.

    • Christine Vercellino says:

      Yes I agree with the above statement made. Any animal laws need to also foscus on appropriate punishment for the perpetrators. Too many people get nothing or a slap on the wrist for their egegious lack of care they fail to provide for their own animals. Perhaps if people knew there were consequences at least a few would think twice.

  2. Paula Campbell says:

    No more suffering for poor innocent animals bring them inside during the cold temps! You would want to be warm on the cold and so do they! They show u signs of being cold they just can’t speak up but We Can so please protect the animals left out in the cold especially the dogs and the cats bring them inside now! They want to be warm to just like you

  3. April Metheny says:

    Animals have ALWAYS deserved & should have had much better than they’ve had/have. They suffer while their “humans” are warm & toasty. The humans should be forced to go outside, no coat/gloves & stay with the animal. See how long they can stand it. If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. All 50 states, all FIFTY states & every county/city should pass/have very STRICT laws that are STRICTLY enforced & investigate “welfare checks” on animals instead of being weak about it or ignoring it! We have 2 outside cats who won’t come inside, strays. One has been with us 5 yrs or more. Both have a house, both have inflated warming pads that hold their body temp (102*). They have an electric bowl that keeps their food warm & water from freezing. Our small dogs come inside & go outside as they please through a doggie door in the back door. STOP THE SUFFERING OF THESE HELPLESS INNOCENT ANIMALS WHO CANNOT HELP THEMSELVES. We must be their voice and their sword if need be. PLEASE love your furbabies! Don’t turn a blind eye & ignore their pain! If needed, if animals are out in frigid/ very hot temps & no other help is coming, call PETA! They gat right on it!

  4. Cyndi sankey says:

    Another side to this topic is exactly “who” will enforce the cruelty laws? In my county, Mercer county, Pennsylvania, there is no paid animal control officer or agency. Yes, the police officers are qualified to enforce the cruelty laws. But, most police departments are under staffed, limited in their resources to remove an animal, and when something is done to enforce the cruelty laws, the court systems don’t place a lot of value on animal cruelty cases. In Pennsylvania,
    Animal cruelty laws are different than the Dog laws. Dog laws are enforced by the Bureau of Dog Law. This department of government does NOT enforce Animal Cruelty Laws. I was the “volunteer” humane police officer from 9-2000 to 3-2007. My comment is based on my experiences within this county. I could go on and on here about the negligence and politics involved in trying to enforce Animal Cruelty laws.

  5. Betty McGinnis says:

    What laws are out there to protect dogs in kennels?

  6. Jan says:

    Michigan really needs this law!!!

  7. margarita clayton says:

    Where are the LAWS & CONSEQUENCES/PUNISHMENT/FINES necessary for people who are senseless & worse; where are the drive by police; NOW is when these pooches NEED HELP!!!!

  8. Gillian Lauder says:

    These laws need to sweep throughout all
    States but more importantly they need to be ENFORCED

  9. Angela Grammatico says:

    Only the evilest person on the planet could leave an animal outside to feel torment every second with so much pain and agony I pray that this kind of abuse be falls them

  10. Iris KA says:

    My idea for the new law in every state: If you abuse an animal, you will be punished by doing what you made the animal do. If they die in the cold, so will you! It may seem a bit harsh but for people like me who love animals more than humans, it is the proper punishment. FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE!!!!!!! Treat others the way you want to be treated! The worse the abuse, the worse your punishment! Like if you agree with me!

  11. Debbie says:

    I am so Thankful things are finally turning around for the Animals it’s a long time coming I want a registry for Animal Abusers just like sex offenders an can never have or be around Animals again Thankful it’s a felony for abuse Amen 🙏🏼 God Bless All the Beautiful Animal’s in the World Always much Love to them All Always 🐾🐾💯💘💘💯🐾🐾🐾💯💯🐾🐾🙏🏼💕😇😇😇🙏🏼🙏🏼🐾🐾🐾🐾🙏🏼💋💋😘🥰😘💋🐾💘💘💯🐾🐾🤗💞🤓💗🐾🐾💯💯💘💘💯💕💋💋💝🤗💞💗💗🐾🐾🐾💘💘💯🐾🐾🐾💯💋💋😇💕🙏🏼🙏🏼🐾🐾🙏🏼😇💋💋🐾🐾💯💘🐾😘🥰

  12. Kim C Galluzzo Wozniak says:

    Please try and make North Carolina a state to forbid animals left outside 24/7. I have 3 nextdoor neighbors who do it, it’s so sad. I’m in Person County. The Animal Control will do nothing, per them, if they have shelter and water. Guess that includes frozen water 🙁

  13. Angela Grammatico says:

    It’s long over due for complete change with leaving dogs out in cold or hot weather. No dog house with straw is adequate to sustain their life. They die a horrible long suffering death. IT MUST STOP NOW ! WE NEED A LAW IN PLACE ACROSS THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.

  14. Stephanie Price says:

    How do we go about getting a law passed in every state that requires pets to be inside dogs only or in correct fenced areas and shelters, no chains no tie outs. Who do I need to start with my concern?

  15. Sue says:

    Lets use facebook, or what ever to post pictures, let people know so we can get help to address some of the cruelties.

  16. Barbara Britton says:

    Laws and punishments are made for people that don’t use common sense. I will leave it at that. Our politicians are the ones making the laws and we need to be addressing them. I think it would be easier if there were none of this individual state laws, but a federal law when it comes to cruelty, neglect, abuse ,etc. Now, felony charges can be applied. All judges on the same page -no hand slapping. Everyone, criminals and all will know the law. Post a graft for each crime and the punishment. Yes, prison time if required. People only respond when you remove their freedom and their money. Any federal tax returns go into a fund created for abused animals and people that enforce this. Extreme high fines- garnish wages. Remove any state -federal assistance that us good people are paying for. Again that money goes into the fund. There’s too much I could write on clarity but I believe the reader gets the idea. This also applies to farm animals. A government committee needs to be implemented with animal activists proceeding with the politicians for crimes and punishments. Crimes towards animals will continue until there are serious consequences for offenses.

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