New Law Protects Pennsylvania Dogs From Being Tethered in Freezing Temps

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If winter is cold for you, it’s just as cold for your pet. The misnomer that a dog’s fur will keep them warm in frigid temperatures is just that–a myth–and one that has sad consequences for pets left outside extreme temperatures.

In Pennsylvania, a recent law now makes it illegal for dog owners to tether their dogs outside for more than 30 minutes when it is freezing, and those who do could face up to 90 days of jail, a $300 fine or both.

Related: Winter SOS: Cold Weather Safety Tips for Dogs

If a pet owner is found to violate this new law and the dog is at risk of injury, the pet parent could face up to a year in jail, a $2000 fine or both and be charged with a second- or third-degree misdemeanor.

Accroding to a review by Humane Pennsylvania, it’s the first time ever that dog owners can be fined with felony-level penalties, even in first-time offenses, outside of animal fighting or the actual killing of an animal or endangered species.

The law took effect in August, but as winter hit the Northeast hard this last week, the impact is signifcant. Prior to the law, dog owners were to supply a shelter, like a dog house, to help keep the pet warm, but now, in addition to specifics for collars and leashes on dogs who are tethered outdoors, the law specifies a temperature and time factor that make it unsafe for a dog.

According to Karl Minor, the president and CEO of Humane Pennsylvania, dog wardens and animal welfare officers won’t file charges immediately if they find a tethered dog, and will instead talk with the owner about options. Now, though, because of the new law, wardens and officers have solid backing for pet owners to care for their animals, and not doing so can result in jail and/or fines.

Nicole Wilson is an animal cruelty officer and with the Pennsylvania SPCA. She said that through the years, people have come to look at their pets as family members, as opposed to possessions as once was the case when she began working in 1998. Now, this law will protect animals from suffering and/or death as has sadly been the case prior to now.

Related: Ohio City Bans Dog Tethering Outside Overnight

Some Pennsylvania cities have taken even more steps to protect dogs, with the Reading City Council actually banning the tethering of dogs at all earlier this year. Experts recommend that if you do take your pets out in the cold, particularly the snowy cold, help keep them warm with sweaters or coats, and consider paw wax for the bottoms of their pads to protect from frozen cement and grass.