Animal Owners Can be Cited for Non-Compliance

With blizzard and winter storm warnings posted for much of Massachusetts, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) reminds pet owners that Massachusetts law prohibits excessive tethering when such weather advisories have been issued.

According to Massachusetts General Law Ch. 140, Section 174E, Subsection D:

A person shall not leave a dog outside when a weather advisory, warning or watch is issued by a local, state or federal authority or when outside environmental conditions including, but not limited to, extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or hail pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the dog based on the dog’s breed, age or physical condition, unless the tethering is not for more than 15 minutes.

Under this law, any law enforcement officer, including special law enforcement officers with ARL and the MSPCA have the authority to issue citations or warning for owners who do not comply: $50 first offense, $100 second offense, $300 and possible loss of ownership with a third or subsequent offenses.

“The Animal Rescue League of Boston has received numerous reports from concerned citizens who have seen not just dogs, but cats, rabbits, horses and other animals who are outdoors and lack adequate shelter,” said Dr. Edward Schettino, ARL’s Vice President of Animal Welfare and Veterinary Services. “Animal protection statutes are in place for a reason, and owners need to take these weather conditions seriously, and make sure their pets are taken care of properly, or they could face legal consequences.”

With the impending storm, it’s important for animal owners to prepare not just for the snow and wind, but for the arctic conditions that will set in following the snowfall. Any preparatory storm plans need to incorporate animals.

“With a significant storm on Thursday and dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills on Friday and Saturday, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) urges people to take precautions to keep their pets safe,” said MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz. “People are asked to limit the time pets are outdoors, keep pets out of unattended vehicles, and to keep pets on leashes near frozen bodies of water.”

Here are some other tips to keep in mind to keep animals safe:

  1. Prepare your dog for the elements. If you have a longer coat dog, let it grow out for the winter; for shorter coat dogs, sweaters, coats and booties can go a long way to protect your pooch.
  2. Wipe off your dog’s paws and stomach. Chemicals used to treat sidewalks can irritate your dog’s paws, and can be poisonous if ingested. When coming in from the cold, clean and dry your dog’s stomach to keep them healthy!
  3. Keep outdoor trips quick. Bathroom breaks or walks, keep it short and sweet and keep your pets indoors as much as possible.
  4. Never leave your dog alone in a cold car. Temperatures inside a car can plummet when the engine is turned off. When going out, leave your animals at home.
  5. Pay attention to your pet’s grooming and health. An animal with a matted coat cannot keep him or herself warm! Senior pets also suffer from increased arthritis pain in the cold, so check with your veterinarian on how to keep your pet comfortable.
  6. Check under the hood. Cats love to warm up underneath the hood of a car, as the residual heat from the engine burns off. Always pound on the hood of your vehicle and do a quick visual check before starting the engine.

Bottom line, if it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s also too cold for your pet to be outside.