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Changes To State Law May Affect How You Take Care Of Your Pet This Winter

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
In June, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a batch of bills updating the state's animal safety requirements.

As winter approaches, pet owners should be aware of changes to the state’s animal safety laws.

In June, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a batch of bills strengthening the state’s requirements for animal safety -- as well as ensuring stricter penalties for offenders.

One change to state law dictates that an animal can’t be tethered outside in temperatures below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees for more than 30 minutes without access to a shelter. Humane officer Seth Mowrey, with Pittsburgh’s Humane Animal Rescue, said shelters must be capable of keeping a pet dry.

“[They also] have to maintain their body temperature while they’re in that shelter," Mowrey said. "So a small dog in a large shelter isn’t going to work.”

Additionally, Mowrey pointed out that if you live in the city of Pittsburgh, the municipal ordinances around pet safety may differ from state law.

For instance, according to state law, your dog can stay outside all day in temperatures below 32 degrees if it has access to a shelter -- whether that be a doggy door to your house or another kind of structure. However, if you live in the city of Pittsburgh, your dog can’t be outside for more than 30 minutes in temperatures below 32 degrees regardless of access to shelter.

Mowrey said there are some exceptions, like if your dog is engaged in some kind of training or work, such as hunting.

“But it has to be, you know, appropriate to the breed,” Mowry said. “So, you can’t have your chihuahua out there telling me … it’s a hunting dog or something.”

Libre’s Law, which was one of the bills signed into law in June, also strengthens penalties for animal abusers. In Pennsylvania, animal abusers could now face $500 or more in fines, as well as felony charges.

“I think the general rule of thumb is basically, you know, putting yourself in that position or a child in that position,” he said. “You know, (pets) are considered property but they’re still a living thing.”