The end of summer brings a final blast of hot days along with the realization that cold weather is just around the corner. For pet owners in some states, extreme weather also carries some liability: it may be illegal to leave your pet outside in certain temperatures.
In 2017, Pennsylvania passed an animal abuse statute known as “Libre’s Law,” named after a puppy who was found near death after being left in an outdoor pen in extreme heat. The law specifically provides that a dog cannot be tethered outside for more than 30 minutes if the temperature is above 90 or below 30. Libre’s Law requires that dogs kept outside must also be kept in clean spaces, and their tethers and collars cannot pinch or choke. The law imposes increased penalties for abuse ranging from simple negligence (up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine, or up to one year in jail and/or a $2000 fine if the negligence causes physical injury to the dog or places it at imminent risk) to aggravated cruelty (up to seven years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine).
Pennsylvania is not alone in paying attention to animal cruelty. Other states have introduced humane pet legislation in the last few years. In 2016, New Jersey passed a law that forbids leaving animals unsheltered in extreme temperatures , and Ohio and Illinois took similar measures regarding harsh weather conditions. Even if a state does not have sweeping legislation to address the treatment of animals in extreme heat or cold, municipalities might. Washington D.C. also enacted a “standard of care” statute that requires pet owners to provide shelter for animals when the temperature is below 40 or above 80 and prohibits leaving animals outside for more than 15 minutes if the temperature falls below freezing or rises above 90. Other cities and counties are taking steps to address this issue as well.
If there is a single lesson to be taken from this spate of new animal cruelty laws, it is this: whether it’s the dog days of summer or the depths of winter, you need to provide your pet with adequate shelter.