Amy Worden writes the Philly Dawg blog for The Philadelphia Inquirer. With her permission, we are reposting her excellent blog Frigid Temps Mean Added Suffering for Outdoor Dogs.
When I woke up this morning the temperature on my iPhone read 3 degrees and the windows rattling in my old farmhouse told me the wind was likely making it feel even colder.
My Jack Russell terrier mix Olivia was curled at my feet on the quilt.
Thousands of dogs in Pennsylvania are not so lucky this morning.
With the exception of a handful of municipalities (including Philadelphia) it is legal to leave your dog outside in extreme temperatures. He need only be provided with loosely defined as “shelter.” Animal welfare advocates and humane society police officers have gone to court over what constitutes “shelter,” sadly often losing because the law is so vague.
Neither do most licensed kennel operators have to provide heat for their breeding dogs and puppies. Despite changes in the dog law it is still legal to keep dogs (depending on their body type) in rabbit hutches as long as they have some clean bedding and are not in distress. The fewer than 100 commercial kennel owners have far stricter requirements regarding extreme temperatures, humidity and ventilation which would make it impossible to keep dogs in outside enclosures.
Dog law officials say they focus inspections on winter months to ensure dogs are not suffering.
This does not include the untold numbers of unlicensed kennels with no oversight. I’ve seen the victims in those kennels in winter – the pregnant, emaciated Italian greyhound in the corner of the damp barn with a few shreds of newspaper comics as “bedding,” the female Basset hound in the barren rabbit hutch, feces piled as high as the wire floor.
Those are images one never forgets, especially today where the coldest temperatures in a century are being recorded in parts of Pennsylvania, including Lancaster County, home to the highest concentration of dog breeders – licensed and unlicensed – in the state.
Once again pro-dog lawmakers in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, led by Sen. Richard Alloway, have introduced legislation to ban 24/7 tethering as they have every session for close to a decade. Even a protest outside the Capitol in 2010 by Dogs Deserve Better founder Tamira Thayne, who chained herself to a dog house for 54 days, was unable to convince lawmakers to eliminate the practice responsible for the suffering of so many dogs.
Here’s how Alloway appealed to fellow members in his memo seeking co-sponsors for SB 373 this session:
Tethering of dogs is cruel and inhumane. Dogs are highly social pack animals who thrive on human and animal interaction and companionship. To a dog, being constantly tethered is like solitary confinement is to a human being. An otherwise friendly dog, when kept tethered becomes unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive and develops neurotic behaviors such as incessant barking, digging and chewing.
Perpetually tethered dogs lead miserable lives! They live, eat, and sleep on their own tiny patch of packed down dirt, often fouled with excrement which in many cases, is rarely cleaned. They are tormented by fleas, ticks, and other insects from which they cannot escape, and suffer from diseases which can kill them. Tethered dogs rarely receive proper care.
The bill defines the parameters of allowable tethering as being “not for a longer period of time than is reasonably necessary for the dog or person to complete a temporary task that requires the dog to be physically restrained.”
So far, Alloway’s bill has 18 co-sponsors. For more information on animal legislation pending in Harrisburg visit the Humane PA web page.
Amy Worden is a politics and government reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In that capacity she has explored a range of animal protection issues from dog kennel law improvements and banning horse slaughter to the comeback of peregrine falcons and pigeon hunts. From hamsters to horses, animals have always been part of her life. To pass along a tip or contact Amy, click here. Reach Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @inkyamy.