by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager, Animal Legal Defense Fund
As winter approaches, many caring people wonder what legal protections exist for companion animals left outside in very cold weather. Although most guardians are cognizant of the need to bring animals indoors when the temperature drops, many animals still suffer and freeze to death after being left out in the cold. Each state has an animal cruelty law under which an owner could potentially be charged for mistreatment, but some also have provisions that directly address extreme weather. This year has witnessed a tremendous increase in social awareness about the issue of dogs in hot cars, and with it a flurry of new laws protecting Good Samaritans who take action to rescue an animal from a closed vehicle. There are currently few laws that specifically address the problem of animals left outside in cold weather, but Washington, D.C., has recently passed one of the strongest in the nation.
On Oct. 24, 2017, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law the Standard of Care for Animals Amendment Act of 2017, which “establishes under what extreme weather conditions that keeping animals outside would constitute cruelty to animals.” It significantly improves the district’s animal protection laws by mandating specific standards of adequate care and empowering humane officers to enforce them.
According to the Humane Rescue Alliance, which helped craft this legislation, highlights of the amendment include the following:
- Provides Humane Rescue Alliance officers with the authority to issue citations and warnings in cases of intentional or grossly negligent harm to an animal.
- Defines “adequate shelter.” When the temperature is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, “adequate shelter” shall mean that a the dog has access to a shelter large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around, that has an entrance covered by a flexible wind-proofing material or self-closing door, that contains a platform for the dog at least 4 inches off the ground, and that contains dry bedding, which must consist of an insulating material that does not retain moisture, such as straw, of sufficient depth for the dog to burrow. When the temperature is at or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, “adequate shelter” shall additionally mean that a dog has access to a shelter shaded by trees, a roof, a tarp, or a tarp-like device.
- Clarifies that an animal cannot be outdoors for more than 15 minutes during periods of extreme weather without human accompaniment or adequate shelter. Extreme weather means temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The amount of detail provided in the definition of “adequate shelter” in both cold and hot weather is notable, as is mandating a maximum amount of time an animal may be left outside unaccompanied. Such clarity is rare among similar laws, which are often vague and lack specific standards of care. This makes it difficult to determine what constitutes criminal cruelty or neglect, which in turn creates difficulties for law enforcement and can be an obstacle to actually using the law to help an animal in distress. The clarity provided in this amendment should be used as a model for other jurisdictions looking to improve their animal protection laws. (If you are curious how your state’s animal protection laws compare to those in other states, see the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual rankings report here.)
The district’s new law originated with a 90-day emergency bill, the Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Act of 2017, which was passed in February 2017 due to an outpouring of public concern about a pit bull named Momma who was left outside in freezing temperatures for weeks. Neighbors tried to help the dog to no avail; despite repeated complaints to the city, Momma received no help. The emergency bill specified what actions must be taken to help animals like Momma left outside in frigid temperatures. Unfortunately the emergency law was not able to help this particular dog, whose owner removed her from the premises after a local news station reported on her situation. But the 90-day provision that Momma’s plight inspired is now a permanent law that can be used to help neglected animals like her in the future.
According to Councilmember Brandon Todd, who introduced the legislation after learning about Momma’s mistreatment:
This comprehensive animal-welfare bill creates a ‘Standard of Care’ that all pet owners must comply with – something brand new for the District. By providing the authority necessary to holistically protect the health and safety of District animals, we can prevent others from suffering like Momma, a Petworth pit bull left outdoors in frigid temperatures whose inhumane treatment triggered an outpouring of concern and my introduction of an earlier version of this legislation.
Strong animal protection laws are an important tool to safeguard animals’ wellbeing. Also crucial, especially to prevent tragedies, is public outreach and education. Some people who keep companion animals are intentionally negligent, while others are simply unaware. As such, the district’s law also contains provisions for an Animal Education and Outreach Fund, funded by dog license fees, to provide low-cost spay and neuter services and implement “an educational program for animal owners regarding pet care and safety, specifically in extreme weather conditions or emergencies, and the laws relating to pet ownership.”
Besides strong animal protection laws and public education, there is another important component to preventing animal suffering: you. Neglected animals depend on the involvement of caring community members. The fact that concerned neighbors could not help Momma when she was left outside to suffer in the cold is distressing. However, their efforts raised awareness and resulted in the passage of one of the strongest cold weather laws in the nation. If you see an animal in distress, including one who has been left outside in frigid temperatures this winter, you should document the conditions, preferably by taking photographs and/or video, and call your local law enforcement or animal control. For more information, see the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s resource: “How to help a neighbor’s neglected animal.”
The Fight Against Rabies and Inhumane Culling
by World Animal Protection
— Our thanks to World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for the Protection of Animals) for permission to republish this article, which originally appeared on their site on September 28, 2016.
To mark the 10th annual World Rabies Day, we’re taking a look at the great changes our Better lives for dogs campaign has achieved for dogs, thanks to amazing supporters like you.
An ancient disease
Rabies was first recorded in 2000 BC, making it one of the oldest diseases known to man.
The virus enters the body, most commonly through the bite of a rabid dog. It then travels through the central nervous system, and eventually hijacks the brain.
Once these symptoms start to show, death is inevitable.
Tens of thousands of people still die from rabies, despite the fact it’s an entirely preventable disease.
The forgotten victims
When dogs contract rabies, they suffer a violent, distressing death. However, many millions of dogs also suffer cruelty at the hands of governments and local communities who are fearful of the disease.
Since 2011, we have campaigned to end the inhumane culling of dogs in the name of rabies.
Building better lives for dogs
Here are just five of our biggest campaign successes for dogs since Better lives for dogs launched:
1. Over one million vaccinations given to dogs: From Sierra Leone to the Philippines, we’ve worked with governments to administer over one million rabies vaccinations to dogs. This means countless people have been protected from rabies, and many more dogs have been protected from the threat of violent culls in its name.
2. Putting Zanzibar on the path to eliminating rabies for good: Zanzibar is home to 10,000 dogs. Before our intervention, dogs were indiscriminately shot in response to rabies outbreaks. We supported the government to vaccinate dogs and improve responsible dog ownership on the island. No human rabies cases have been reported on the island since 2013, and dogs are no longer culled in attempts to control the disease.
3. Kenya announces Africa’s first ever rabies elimination strategy: Kenya bears the burden of an estimated 2,000 human rabies cases. Outbreaks of rabies were previously met with random, ineffective vaccination of dogs, coupled with shooting and poisoning.
In 2014, we worked with the government to write an effective and humane strategy to eliminate the disease through vaccination and population management. We are working in Makueni county, which has one of the highest rates of rabies in Kenya, to show that this approach is effective.
So far, we’ve vaccinated over 50,000 dogs against rabies and trained 59 teachers, four Senior Education Officers and four Veterinary and Livestock Extension Officers on responsible dog ownership, dog bite prevention and rabies elimination.
4. A brighter future for China’s dogs: We vaccinated over 90,000 dogs in three pilot sites in China to prove that vaccination is more effective than the inhumane culling dogs. And the proof is in the pudding, with no human rabies cases being reported in any of the vaccination sites.
The successes of the project are being used to draft national guidelines on controlling rabies across the country.
5. Putting an end to dog poisoning in Bangladesh: Bangladesh used to have one of the highest rates of human rabies cases in the world. Bangladeshi authorities responded by killing as many dogs as they could.
We lobbied the government to put an end to this ineffective and inhumane approach. Since 2011, we have worked with the government to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of dogs. And human rabies deaths are rapidly falling.
We have also worked to get agreement from local governments that culling will not be part of rabies control in their areas, meaning no dogs will face violent deaths in the name of rabies.
The future of rabies control
At the end of December 2015, major global organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), committed to ending rabies by 2030.
There is still a huge amount of work to do to reach this goal. We’ll continue to focus our efforts where dogs face the greatest threat to their lives.
Right now, we are working towards protecting the lives of 100,000 dogs in Sierra Leone. Rabies is a daily threat. And the country’s capital, Freetown, has one of the highest densities of stray dogs in the whole of Africa.
Schedule for the Ghost Bullys 1% MC 3rd Annual Rally To Rescue
The Rally To Rescue is an event to raise funds for real world abused, misunderstood and abandoned animals. This year, along with rides and concerts and contests, we have a street of bikes for sale with a portion of all sales going to saving these animals.
Saturday July 8th
12pm – Eric Clapton Concert (street stage)
12pm – Swap Meet Begins
12pm – Strut Your Mutt Real Life Pet Photo Contest Starts
2pm – Presidents and Officers Charity Rideout (all MC’s welcome!)
4pm – Hollywood Vampires Tribute Concert (main stage)
Sunday July 9th
12pm – Allman Brothers Concert (street stage)
3pm – Dare To Be Bare Charity Rideout (Naked Ride!)
6pm – Van Halen (Roth) (main stage)
Monday July 10th
12pm – Joe Bonamassa and Beth Concert TBA (street stage)
1pm – MC Charity Rideout (all MC’s welcome)
4pm – Rob Zombie Tribute Concert (main stage)
Tuesday July 11th
12pm – Stevie Ray Vaughn Concert (street stage)
2pm – Rally To Rescue Charity Rideout (all are welcome!)
4pm – Motorhead Tribute Concert
Wednesday July 12th
12pm – The Blues Brothers Concert (street stage)
2pm – MC Charity Rideout (all MC’s welcome)
4pm – Five Finger Death Punch Tribute Concert
6pm – Strut Your Mutt Real Life Pet Photo Contest Ends
6pm – Swap Meet Ends
The charity rideouts require any size of a donation to participate.
The Ghost Bullys have chosen to be a voice for Pit Bulls and their persecution, but we believe it is our moral responsibility to protect and improve the lives of ALL abused, abandoned, and homeless animals. Rescues are often these animals, last and only hope.
100% of our collected donations goes directly for the care of animals at non-profit, no-kill, volunteer rescue organizations.
ALL ARE WELCOME!!