Utah’s animal protection advocates are pushing for a new law that would require dog owners to provide adequate shelter for their pets during extreme weather or face animal-cruelty charges.
Current law already requires shelter, but fails to define what that means, according to Deann Shepherd of the Humane Society of Utah.
“A lot of animal-control officers get called about a dog that’s chained in the backyard, and there’s a tarp hung in a tree, (but) their hands are tied because they are providing shelter, just not adequate shelter,” Shepherd told The Salt Lake Tribune last week.
The same could apply to owners who put cardboard boxes in the yard or let their animals crawl under outside stairs or decks to escape cold weather, she said.
The society’s proposal would require pet owners to erect doghouses with four walls, floors above the ground, waterproof roof, covered entryways and clean bedding.
Dogs would have to be able to go inside the shelters when temperatures drop below freezing or rise above 85 degrees. Violators could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if found to have acted intentionally.
Callista Pearson, spokeswoman for Salt Lake County Animal Services, said her office gets about 14 or 15 calls a week this time of year from people concerned that pets are not being given adequate shelter. She said sometimes there is little officers can do if shelter is provided even if it does not meet basic standards. Setting the guidelines “would be helpful for officers,” she said.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored an identical bill last year. It passed out of a Senate committee but was not voted on by the full Senate.
“It’s not anti-tethering,” Davis said, “but it’s to make sure that when you tether your animal, they can get out of the weather and to warmth and dryness.”
Last year, the bill was opposed by the Utah Farm Bureau. Bureau vice president Sterling Brown said farmers and ranchers love their animals, but the tethering that would be banned in the bill is “common practice on the farm and ranch.”
Davis said the new bill may exempt tethering done in normal farming and ranching practices.