A new Philadelphia ordinance calls for fines of up to $500 for dog owners who leave their animals out in the cold.
Sue Cosby, executive director of the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia , said it’s the first time that the city has set specific guidelines to protect pets from extreme weather.
“With this ordinance, you need to bring your dogs inside,” said Cosby. “You need to give them protection. They need to have adequate food and drinking water that isn’t frozen by the cold weather. And if you don’t comply with the regulations, you can be fined.”
Under the new law, sponsored last year by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, the dogs must come indoors anytime the city declares a Code Blue, when temperatures drop to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The same holds for Code Red (for extreme heat) and Code Gray (for extreme precipitation).
ACCT will be in charge of enforcement, which will depend heavily on tips from neighbors, Cosby said.
“Most dogs are left in yards where they may not be visible from the street, so any kind of officers visiting the area may not even be aware that there’s a dog in the yard,” she said. “So we’re relying on people who see a problem to report it.”
Cosby said that no matter what, the city won’t be able to confiscate people’s dogs, but certain kinds of abuse and neglect can violate state laws and trigger higher fines or even criminal charges.
And while pet advocates urge cat owners to protect their animals as well, the city’s ordinance doesn’t apply to felines.