March 3, 2012
What to Do If You See a Pet Left Out in the Cold
It can be a crime to leave pets outside in extreme temperatures without food and shelter
As the temperature plummets in many parts of the country, The Humane Society of the United States sees a marked increase in the number of complaints of dogs and cats left outside with no food or shelter. We encourage you to contact local law enforcement agencies, because pets left outside in extreme temperatures without food and shelter are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and even death, placing their owners at risk of facing criminal charges.
The act of leaving a pet outside without food or adequate shelter often receives less attention than a violent attack against an animal, but neglect is a crime. Especially in these cold months, it is important for people to bring their pets inside and for others to report neglected animals to law enforcement,” said Ashley Mauceri, The HSUS's deputy manager for animal cruelty investigations, who fields these calls.
Animal neglect is one of the most common forms of animal cruelty, and is investigated more by police and animal control agencies than any other form of animal abuse. Our most constant companions—dogs and cats—feel the effects of winter weather as much as we do, only they are too often cast outside to weather the storm due to a misconception that the fur on their backs will insulate them from suffering. Without proper food and water, to boot, these domesticated animals’ chances of survival in frigid temperatures is greatly decreased.
While views on animal welfare vary from region to region, laws are in place in every state to prevent needless suffering. Callers to The HSUS report numerous cases across the country of animals left out in the cold, but the organization is also working with an increasing number of law enforcement agencies that recognize the importance of intervention in these cases.
- Animal neglect is considered a misdemeanor crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- All but 9 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico and North Carolina) specifically require pet owners to provide adequate shelter for a pet outside, the definition of which generally includes some variation of “protection from the elements or extreme weather.”
- Felony penalties can be levied in Massachusetts and Oklahoma for any animal neglect case.
- Felony charges can be applied in animal neglect resulting in death in California, Connecticut, Florida and Washington, D.C.
- Report what you see: Take note of the date, time, exact location and the type of animal(s) involved and write down as many details as possible about the situation. Video and photographic documentation of the animal, the location, the surrounding area, etc. (even a cell phone photo) will help bolster your case.