Del. John Bell, D-Fairfax, has introduced a bill to clarify when it’s not okay for pet owners to tether their pets outside.
According to U.S. News, “His [Bell’s] legislation would prohibit tethering pets outdoors when the temperature drops to 32 degrees or below or rises to 85 degrees or above. The restrictions would not apply to farm animals.”
A similar bill was introduced last year by Bell; however, it was shot down in the General Assembly for being too strict.
Planning for this session’s bill began last April when animal advocate Gary Sweeney reported a dog left outside in Henrico County and was told by Henrico County Animal Control that the pet owner was not breaking the law.
Sweeney started a petition on Change.org to introduce a bill that would specify when the weather is considered too extreme for dogs to be left outside.
“I went back and read the existing laws thoroughly; I realized that there was nothing in place in Virginia’s law that had anything to do with extreme weather. It does have an adequate shelter provision – but it doesn’t specify by what type of (dog) house is adequate enough.”
The Humane Society of the United States learned of Sweeney’s petition after tens of thousands of supporters signed it. The Humane Society worked with Sweeney and Bell to draft something similar to the delegate’s 2017 bill.
Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said this bill is a measured approach to a subject that has long troubled animal welfare advocates.
“It is, I think, impossible to disagree with the idea that people should not tether dogs outside in severe weather conditions.”
Bell, who is a dog owner and whose wife, Margaret, is an avid animal rescuer, said he worked with more than 20 groups to find a solution that works for everyone.
The bill was filed on Jan. 9 and has been assigned to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, which is the same panel that shot down Bell’s legislation last year.
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