This summer, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a warning to pet parents in the UK regarding pet dogs trapped in hot cars. After receiving more than 600 emergency calls about dogs suffering in the country’s heatwave, they warned owners of potential jail time and an unlimited fine if they were found guilty of trapping their dogs in warm vehicles. Now, US State Pennsylvania is following suit. State legislators recently passed a law that would make it illegal to leave dogs tied up for longer than 30 minutes if it is colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer than 90 degrees.
The law was created in honor of Libre, a rescue puppy found in appalling living conditions in Southern Lancaster County. At just 7 weeks old, Libre survived terrible neglect and abuse thanks to a brave samaritan who tipped off local animal rescuers. Libre has now recovered from the ordeal and has inspired legal change.
Anyone found to be in breach of Libre’s Law will be confronted with a stiff fine and anywhere between 6 months to 1 year of jail time. Cruelty officer for the Lancaster County Animal Coalition, Jennifer Nields, stated: “This won’t stop cruelty, but it will put an emphasis on the importance of justice for their suffering. The laws are recognition of their pain and what they deserve.”
Moreover, The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association called Libre’s Law an “incredible victory for animals.” Pennsylvania is the first state to take the lead on protecting animals from severe weather conditions and has set the precedent for more states to follow suit.
Other states do have laws to prevent owners from tethering their dogs for extended periods of time, but Pennsylvania is the first to acknowledge the danger of doing so in potentially harmful weather. For example, D.C. prohibits the act of “cruelly chaining” pet dogs, which includes (but is not limited to) tethering that does not permit the animal to escape harm. However, the specificity of Pennyslvania’s law should be applauded.
Libre’s Law is part of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s work to strengthen protection for animals and prevent animal cruelty. Animal welfare has been a critical part of his action plan for Pennsylvania. The law joins others enacted by Governor Wolf, including one that protects dogs and cats left in hot cars.
Ultimately, although pet owners may believe that animals are protected from harsh weather due to their thick coats of fur or feathers, all animals can still suffer from frostbite, exposure, or dehydration. While the law may prevent negligence, it is important to prep pets for the winter season as temperatures begin to drop drastically.
If you are a pet parent, remember to stay up to date on your pet’s wellness checks, understand their temperature tolerance levels, check paws frequenly for injuries, provide warmth with a pet sweater or coat, and be well prepared for weather emergencies. If you see an act of animal cruelty, it is always best to contact your local shelter or animal welfare organization.