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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 20, 2019 11:13 AM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Protecting Dogs in Extreme Weather Conditions
I am introducing legislation to enhance Pennsylvania's animal cruelty statute by requiring better protection from harsh weather conditions for all dogs who are kept outdoors.

Current state law fails to adequately protect dogs during periods of extreme weather. Like people, dogs are vulnerable to the elements. Extended exposure to cold temperatures can result in frostbite and potentially deadly hypothermia, and heat stroke is a common cause of death for dogs in summer months. "Libre's Law" prohibits a dog from being tethered for longer than 30 minutes when the temperature is over 90 degrees or under 32 degrees. However, there is no current provision for non-tethered dogs and no protection at all for any dog left outside in extreme weather conditions.

Additionally, our current requirements for shelters inadequately ensure dogs kept outdoors have protection from harsh weather elements and creates vagueness for dog owners and law enforcement alike. The statute has broad and vague shelter specifications and requires someone to know the body temperature of the dog in order to determine whether a shelter is adequate or not.

Dog owners and enforcement officers need clear, reasonable standards for animal care. Accordingly, this legislation will update our existing animal neglect statute, clarifying minimum requirements for adequate shelter to protect dogs when left outdoors, particularly during times of extreme weather, and regardless of whether they are tethered or not. Specifically, my bill will:
  • For any dog kept outside for more than 30 minutes, require shelters that are raised, moisture- and wind-proof, non-metal structures with roofs that prevent rain for entering inside.
  • During cold winter months, shelters must have a windbreak at the entrance and bedding must provide insulation and protection against cold and dampness.
  • During hot summer months, areas of shade outside the structure must be provided to protect the dog from direct rays of sun.
  • Prohibit any dog from being left outside for more than 30 minutes when the temperature is over 90 degrees or under 32 degrees.
  • Prohibit any dog from being left outside and unattended for more than 15 minutes when a severe weather advisory or warning has been issued for the area.

In an effort to standardize these requirements, my bill’s language mirrors ordinances already in effect in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and many other municipalities throughout our state. It will also retain current agricultural exemptions.

If you would like to help me in further protecting our canine friends, please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB551