New laws aim to protect pets from extreme weather

Here we are, not quite to the middle of December, and yet and we already have a couple of winter storms under our belt. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one brushing the snow off my pumpkins so that I could get them out of the way for the Christmas decorations. The temperatures have also been below average, so I guess there’s no denying that winter has descended upon us. Every year when the weather turns like this, I lose sleep thinking of all the animals who are out there without shelter – especially those confined on a chain or in fencing that doesn’t allow them to seek out some sort of cover. Even after many years of working at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, it hasn’t gotten any easier to keep those worries at bay.

This is the first winter that our organization hasn’t been responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws, but I’m hoping that having regular law enforcement on the job now will be a positive step; at least they have many more people on staff to respond to calls. I hope that you will continue to do your part as vigilant animal advocates by reporting weather-related animal issues to your local police.

There are also new laws taking affect in February that will help protect pets in extreme weather conditions. In actuality, these laws are way overdue, but better late than never. These laws deal with shelter and containment and, since they come into effect in the middle of this winter, it makes sense to have everything in compliance at the onset of the bad weather.

The following are excerpts from a Humane Society of the United States document that helps put the laws into laymen’s terms.

  • Adverse Environmental Conditions: It is unlawful to expose any dog, domestic companion animal or service animal to adverse environmental conditions for more than 30 minutes, unless the animal has continuous access to proper shelter as set forth below.
  • Adverse Environmental Conditions means any of the following:  32degrees Fahrenheit or below, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above; exposure to direct sunlight, hot pavement, or any other hot surfaces that would pose a risk to the health or safety of the animal; cold weather or precipitation-related environmental conditions including, but not limited to, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet or hail.
  • Proper Outdoor Shelter Requirements: Proper shelter must, at all times: Be adequately ventilated so the animal remains dry and maintains a normal body temperature, in an upright position. Allow the animal access to clean, potable water and exposure to natural or artificial light per a regular cycle of day and night. Be soundly constructed, in good repair, have no sharp points or edges, and bmaintained from waste and debris. Provide sufficient space for the animal to easily turn around in a full circle and lie down on its side with limbs outstretched; and when the animal is in a normal sitting position, the top of the animal’s head cannot touch the shelter ceiling. Must be reasonably away from flood areas. Be cleared of snow, precipitation and debris. Must have a floor, insulation to maintain normal body temperature and, if under 32 degrees, a windbreak. Proper shelter DOES NOT include a crawl space, under a vehicle, a structure made with pressure-treated wood containing arsenic or chromium, or with a wire, chain link-type construction, or one made from materials that can easily denigrate from the elements. Even if shelter requirements are met, if the size, type, condition or type of animal puts the animal in danger of the elements, and normal body temperature cannot be maintained, it can be ordered to be taken inside.

Now, I hate to sound sarcastic, but doesn’t all that seem like common sense? There are other aspects of the new law that we’ll cover at another time, but I’m very happy that we now have a version of Code Blue laws that will help us protect pets from suffering. I’ve seen firsthand the results of animals who have been subject to frostbite and even death because their owners failed to provide protection from the elements; it’s the stuff of nightmares. Please play your part by reporting possible cases of cruelty and neglect to your police department.


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