My news feed runneth over this week with stories of freezing temperatures and the effect on pets. There are lots of articles talking about state laws and giving recommendations on what to do with pets during extremely cold weather. While obvious exceptions must be made for some animals including feral cats (who can be provided with homemade outdoor shelters) and sled dogs (who are purpose bred for outdoor living as part of their work), the general message should be: Bring your pets indoors. All of us involved in animal advocacy should be repeating this message as a means of education and increasing awareness.
When an ACO in Longview, TX was interviewed about a frozen dog found chained to a fence, he provided this disappointing quote:
“Bring your dogs in when the temperature drops down to these conditions so that you don’t end up with a dead animal. Because if we come out and your animal has died because of the environment that it’s in, if it’s died because it’s frozen, it’s cold, we will file charges,” said Longview animal control officer Chris Kemper.
The message should be “Bring your dogs in,” with no hint from authorities that as long as your pet hasn’t frozen to death, you won’t be charged.
There appears to be some confusion about what state law requires in Texas so I looked it up. A violation of the following is a misdemeanor:
Texas Penal Code: Sec. 42.092. CRUELTY TO NONLIVESTOCK ANIMALS. includes the following:
(7) “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.
(8) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
(3) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;
In the Longview case, authorities indicated the dog’s owner had failed to provide food, water and shelter while the pet suffered and died. Authorities could have – and should have – intervened before the dog froze to death. Being left on a chain with no food, water or shelter in freezing temperatures appears to qualify under the law as torture and cruelty since most pets could not possibly be maintained in good health under these conditions. But the ACO’s statement implies that action will only be taken if the pet dies as a result of the torture.
Do better with your messaging, Longview. And definitely do better with your intervention on behalf of suffering pets.
What, if anything, does the law say about providing shelter to animals during the cold in your state? Are you working to get your state’s cruelty laws amended to better protect animals? Do you do any advocacy work, such as social media outreach, about bringing pets inside during extreme weather? What information do you include in your message?