Is it animal cruelty to keep a dog outside? A Complete Guide

If you’re keeping a dog outside

A dogs physical, social and behavioural needs are very complex, and meeting these needs can be very hard, if not impossible, for dogs living outside.

We understand that often, owners consider keeping their dogs outdoors because of behavioural problems that may seemingly prevent them from staying indoors. For example, a dog may be destructive or difficult to toilet-train. In such cases, you should talk to your vet to rule out any potential health issues. They may refer your dog to a behavioural expert.

We suggest considering these options first to resolve any issues you may be having with your dog. However, if you do choose to keep a dog outside, always take sensible safety precautions, and be alert to risks that may affect your dog outside.

Here are some things you need to consider:

  • A suitable outdoor dog kennel – this should be large enough to allow separate sleeping and activity areas. Its very important that your dog can comfortably walk, run and wag their tail within the walls of their kennel, and can play, stand on their hind legs, stretch and lie down without touching another animal or kennel.
  • Shelter and protection from rain, wind and sunlight – dogs should always be able to move where they feel more comfortable, away from direct sunlight and into the shade. Dog crates are never a suitable permanent environment for your pet.
  • Temperature and ventilation – heating and/or automatic cooling and ventilation may also be necessary to keep temperatures above 10°C and below 26°C. Heating or cooling systems need to be safe – no trailing cables, for example. We also advise monitoring the temperature daily.
  • Tethering or restraining dogs – we believe that dogs should not be tethered or chained, except for very short periods, as restraining a dog in this way can lead to injuries and also restrict normal behaviour, which can be very damaging to the dogs wellbeing.
  • Health and wellbeing needs – provide constant access to clean drinking water and a well-balanced diet. Use a sturdy water bowl and check regularly for refills. We also advise that you check your dog daily for any signs of injury or illness.
  • Social needs – always make sure your dog is able to behave normally and is provided with the opportunity for daily exercise, play and interaction with animals and people. Making sure your dog has appropriate company is an important consideration for outdoor dogs.
  • Dont let your dog become lonely or bored, and never leave them alone long enough to become distressed. Signs of a distressed dog included barking, howling or whining excessively, as well as panting, hiding and/or showing aggression.

    Access to shelter is another important thing to consider before registering a complaint. If a dog chooses to be outside, even with access to adequate shelter (like a doghouse), it’s unlikely the dog is suffering. AHS humane agents recommend paying close attention to body language. Is the dog lifting its paws? Whining or barking? Acting stiff or not willing to move about freely?

    So how do you know if an animal is actually in danger due to cold weather?

    The same can be said of a dog in a car. It’s illegal to keep a dog in a car only when the environment jeopardizes the dog’s health and safety. In winter months, cars can actually be an acceptable shelter. Pudas says if the dog is lively or barking while in a car, it’s likely not in danger at that moment. If you can, keep any eye on the dog — the situation could change as time goes on.

    When temperatures start to plummet, Animal Humane Society’s humane investigations hotline receives a significant increase in calls. Concerned animal lovers suspect that animals left outside in extreme weather conditions might be in danger — and for good reason. Cold weather can be deadly for pets.

    Leaving a pet outside in extreme temperatures without food and shelter can be a criminal offense.

    If you are a pet owner, you should already be aware of the dangers of extreme weather and the impact it can have on your pet. But, just in case you need the reminder, always check paws for injury, invest in a warm pet sweater or coat, and take your pet for regular checkups during fall and wintertime.

    Jennifer Nields, the cruelty officer for the Lancaster County Animal Coalition, affirmed, “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.”

    The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association also stated that Libre’s Law was an “incredible victory for animals.”

    While a few other states have implemented laws that address and prevent owners from chaining their dogs for long periods of time, Pennsylvania is the first to address those dangers under extreme weather conditions. For example, Washington DC has made illegal the act of “cruelly chaining” pet dogs – which encompasses tethering that doesn’t allow the animal to escape harm. However, Pennsylvania’s law is much more specific.

    Aptly named Libre’s Law, the legislation is expected to prevent animal cruelty that exposes pets to extreme weather conditions. Anyone who is found to be in violation of the law faces a stiff penalty in the form of a hefty fine as well as prison time – anything from six months to a year.

    Is it Okay to Have Just an Outside Dog

    A Florida bill that is up for vote in committee on Tuesday, 12/10/19, would make it a criminal offense to allow a dog to be outside and unattended when the temperature is below 32 degrees or during a severe weather advisory/warning, even if the dog is never at risk or suffers no harm.

    Senate Bill 522 specifies that “a dog is considered to have been left outside and unattended if it is left in a securely fenced yard or a kennel or is tethered by use of a restraint”, regardless of whether the dog has access to an outside shelter. It is unclear how “kennel” is defined.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Immediately contact members of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and respectfully ask that they vote no on SB 522. The committee meets on 12/10/19 at 10:00 a.m. Please scroll down for contact information. The best opportunity to stop a problematic bill is while it is in committee—Florida dog owners are urged to take action today by sending emails, calling, or leaving messages.

    Penalties include fines of up to $5000 and imprisonment of up to a year. A person may be charged with a separate offense for each dog. Additional penalties include prohibitions against owning or having control over any animal.

    AKC believes that dogs should be provided proper care and humane treatment at all times, which includes protection from adverse or extreme weather conditions. Care provided to a dog should be appropriate for its individual needs, and not based on arbitrary temperature limits or the issuance of a weather advisory/warning in the state.

    Click on each Senator’s name to view his or her webpage and for access to an online email form.

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