Dog Abuse

Pennsylvania Law Makes Leaving Dogs Out in the Cold a Felony

It’s a shame that lawmakers must step in and take measures to protect dogs from their own owners, but that’s exactly what a new Pennsylvania law will do during harsh winter weather.

pennsylvania law

Signed into law last June, Pennsylvania House Bill 1238, better known as Libre’s Law, provides protection for Pennsylvania’s pets against cruelty and abuse.

As part of that law, even first time offenders could face felony charges for mistreating or neglecting pets – and that includes cruelly subjecting them to harsh winter weather – if the animal suffers severe bodily injury or death as a result.

“Don’t leave them outside,” said Mercer County Humane Officer Paul Tobin. “The new law is pretty clear. Anything under 32 degrees, anything over 90 degrees, your dogs are not allowed outside for more than 30 minutes.”

Under the law, if outside temperatures dip below freezing, or 32-degrees Fahrenheit, dogs cannot be left tethered outside for more than 30 minutes.

Dog owners found guilty can now face felony animal cruelty charges and punishment including up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine dependent on the level of bodily injury caused.

For more detailed information, refer to this anti-tethering resource sheet provided by the Humane Society:

Tougher animal protection laws in the state are intended to send a clear message to pet owners that cruelty will not be tolerated in the state. Animal welfare organizations state-wide encourage anyone that sees or suspects an animal being neglected or abused to call 911 and report the abuse immediately.

With record-breaking low temperatures already reaching many parts of the country, would you support a similar law in your own state? Weigh in with a comment below!

83 Comments

83 Comments

  1. Matthew Snyder

    Nov 18, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Next we need mandatory pet medical coverage. If these animals gets sick they should have affordable quality health care.

  2. Larry

    Nov 16, 2018 at 1:52 am

    should be a universal law

  3. Val Oneill

    Jan 29, 2018 at 12:38 am

    What about Dog breeders and the Amish dog breeding business? Will they be prosecuted & shutdown?

  4. AKD

    Dec 29, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Ok so what about all sled dog breeds, Burmese mountain dogs, and other dogs built for the harsh cold? They thrive in cold weather. If their owner leaves them out for over 30 minutes, should the owners be punished even though their dog will be fine?

    • Judy

      Jan 3, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      Awesome law. I hope NYS follows.

    • Carolyn

      Apr 20, 2018 at 3:50 am

      You are brain dead if it is under 32 they won’t be fine. How can you just be that illiterate?? They get cold and can die and freeze also.

  5. Bob

    Dec 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    May the chains of slavery rest lightly upon your children. When you surrender your freedom to the state, bow down to HSUS, and place “animal rights” above people, you are disrespecting those that have gave all to secure your freedom.

  6. Lyn Miller

    Nov 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Its about time someone enacts a law to protect our animal friends!

  7. Page

    Nov 20, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Why does this law cover ONLY dogs? It refers to “pets” but then leaves out cats and ferrets. Do you think they don’t suffer from cold and heat? In fact, many cities deliberately re-abandon feral cats to fend for themselves in the great outdoors, the day after major surgery, calling it TNR and claiming that it’s humane! Check PETA’s “Great Outdoors” to learn how inhumane it is. Check Centers for Disease Control “Burden of Rabies” to see that four times as many cats are reported rabid as dogs, especially in the Pennsylvaniw area – because we don’t maintain cruel community dog colonies! Expend that law to truly include all pets!

    • jeanne

      Jan 18, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      I was SHOCKED to learn that The Humane Society of Golden Valley, MN, takes stray cats, sterilizes them AND RETURNS THEM TO THE OUTDOORS AGAIN!!!!!!!!! I volunteered at the HS so I know this as a fact. Who in the world would think this is OK? Someone on the board is cruel. We trust these organizations to advocate for animals.

  8. Steve Eichler

    Nov 19, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Coon hounds? Hunting labs? Coyote hounds? These breeds as well as large well coated dogs love the cold weather! Maybe single digits with wind they should be out of the wind. A pocket book dog needs to be protected, but all dogs? I live in up state ny. I can see it coming here soon. What about Alaskan sled dogs? Where will this end?

    • Siren53

      Nov 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

      It will end when EVERYONE realizes that dogs are not possessions, but thinking, feeling, sentient beings who deserve better.

      • Jan

        Nov 27, 2017 at 8:03 am

        Some dogs have been developed for centuries to work in such weather.

      • Dog lover

        Jan 3, 2018 at 5:55 pm

        They do deserve to be treated right, but my dog would like to be outside regardless of the temperature. She doesn’t get left there to be mean, but because she likes it. German Shepherd. And I know lots of other breeds that shrug of cold that we won’t go out in. There are already laws for people who abuse dogs. This law isn’t needed.

    • Monica Dennis

      Nov 20, 2017 at 9:21 am

      It doesn’t matter what the breed, just because they have more fur doesn’t mean they do not feel the cold or get cold. Let us all put on thick heavy coats and lay outside for a bit doing nothing but being tied up or even in a dog house, do you not think you would get cold or freeze and get arthritis and other health related issues from the elements. It isn’t rock science people all animals feel the cold no matter what however yes some can endure it more but not for long it catches up with them down the road. All animals need looking after in the winter months and shelter from the heat no matter where you live. All states, provinces, countries need strict laws like this and others to help protect the innocent because far too many human beings do not have a brain in the head!

      • AKD

        Dec 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm

        A husky left outside for over 30 minutes in the snow is fine. A jack russel left outside in the snow for over 30 minutes is not. Why should the husky owner be punished when his dog can live for days in the cold without succumbing to hypothermia.

        As for your people analogy, it’s flawed. One different species are build for different climates. What humans are not adapted to even with tools to survive may be completely livable for other species. The same goes within dog breeds. Some dog breeds are bred to be adapted to the cold and others are not. Two, there are entire cultures of people who live their entire lives in the cold, and I don’t mean they live in a house with heating. I mean they live in tents and igloos with only the clothes on their back and fire to keep them warm. So yes people can live in the cold with just a coat as long as it provides sufficient warmth.

        • Joseph Franzone

          Nov 17, 2018 at 5:56 pm

          Great post!

      • Nancy Lauder

        Sep 24, 2018 at 12:03 pm

        Yours is the best comment I’ve read on here so far.Common sense.
        Thank you!

    • Elizabethkid

      Apr 10, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      Every animal deserves to be out of extreme hot and cold weather conditions. Thinking that certain breeds should be exempt is preposterous. Cruelty shouldn’t be an exemption. Even if a husky, for example, loves the cold, 30 minutes is even way too long enough. This is a fantastic law and anyone who protests it can’t be concerned about animal welfare. I hope the Humane Society is actively pursuing getting this same legislation passed in all 50 states. Dogs and cats love being part of the family and depriving them of that companionship is cruel in and of itself. If all you want to do is chain a dog outside, don’t get one. Single DIGITS…have some mercy.

  9. Marsha Dodd

    Nov 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    This law is great

    • Marsha Dodd

      Nov 19, 2017 at 6:54 pm

      This law is great. Now if lawmakers could do the same for our homeless citizens.

  10. Raeann

    Nov 19, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    WTG!!!!!!!Pennsylvania

  11. Sara Small

    Nov 18, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I live in Maine, I would totally support a law like this!!

  12. Gina Moorhead

    Nov 18, 2017 at 12:36 am

    How can I get this law passed in Ohio? This is in regards to people penning their dogs which is worse than just tethering outside because at least the dog eventually comes in, but if it’s made to live outside permanently, it never comes in. I was told by local zoning where I live that just because there’s the doghouse, shelter and food and water that there’s no law against it. The neighbors down my street have their dog In a pen and it’s starving for attention. I’ve visited it before and he gets so excited when he senses that A human would come around to pet him through the chain-link pen. It’s not a very large dog either. Pet owners should not even have a dog if they’re just going to keep it out back like a tree.

    • Molly

      Nov 19, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      I couldn’t agree more!!! I live in MI and I was told the same thing about our laws. I’m currently fighting for a dog who’s being chained to a tree at an unoccupied home near my house. Our laws are for heartless people.

  13. Melanie

    Nov 17, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I just want to scream READ!!! Tethering means to be tied. Tethering is leaving limited ability to move around, find shelter, keep warm or cool, etc. Doggie doors, dog houses, cat doors, cat shelters, food, water all allow your pets to have access to necessities. If it is extremely hot or cold you may need to find another option dependent on the pet. This is a good law, protects animals that cant speak and will work if people work it.

    • AKD

      Dec 29, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Renewing just means tied up. It doesn’t imply that the dog doesn’t have a dog house or is often taken inside the house, and some dog breeds an spend days outside in the cold without becoming ill.

      • boldlowe

        Mar 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

        And I bet you could, too.

  14. Kat

    Nov 17, 2017 at 9:18 am

    I understand the principle, but it is a little crazy. First of all my dogs hate being in a warm house in winter. They pant and want out. 2nd, they love to run and play in snow when we get it. Hello? That means it is below 32. 3rd. What about the farmer, rancher, jogger, walker, equestrian,,,, anyone who is outside in below 32 weather and has their dog with them all day? Does this mean they must leave Fido in the house because some bleeding heart didn’t think this through? Not all dogs are house dogs and many don’t like it. Soon “they” will want us to keep in our horses and cattle and heat their stalls.

    • Slowe

      Nov 17, 2017 at 11:05 am

      Like

    • Kody

      Nov 17, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      If you read the entire article, its says unattended dogs… So that only applies to some tying a dog up and walking away for more then 30 minutes.

      • Kody

        Nov 17, 2017 at 3:42 pm

        Also it is strictly a tethering law, so if you are following the proper laws on having an outdoor dog (Shelter, bedding, food, and water) then you have nothing to worry about.

      • Candi

        Nov 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        “Don’t leave them outside,” said Mercer County Humane Officer Paul Tobin. “The new law is pretty clear. Anything under 32 degrees, anything over 90 degrees, your dogs are not allowed outside for more than 30 minutes.”

        This is total BS. Northern breed dogs Require AC if its above 60 and left inside. What this is saying is let the dog suffer in the heat inside or run your AC year round in order to satisfy the law. The next step will be bringing your horses or goats or cows inside your home! Not stalls as unless they are heated, they are not safe for animals.

        Yes. Let’s all do this. And the sled dogs? Yup! Bring them in too.

      • Beth

        Nov 25, 2017 at 11:50 pm

        Thank you Kody. People fly off the handle without reading. The crazy pendulum swings wide both ways.

    • Laura

      Nov 18, 2017 at 1:37 am

      I agree this is absurd! Great to make actual abuse have harsher penalties, but 32 degrees is nomproblem for certain breeds. Our dog is mostly chow chow.. they were bread as Mongolian hunting dogs.. she loves being outdoors and gets bored inside. If she gets cold then she goes in her warm dog house.

  15. LD

    Nov 16, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    OK I get the concern for the pets, but it is ridiculous to charge people with a felony for leaving pets oout at 32 or below or 90 or above. Most people have to work and can’t come home to bring a dog in cause the temp goes below or above the ideal range. The law should specify lack of or shelter or clear neglect of animal. It’s obvious if someone cares about their pets or not. No need for such stringent restriction. It is really sad when people care more about animals than people…

    • Cathy

      Nov 17, 2017 at 9:01 am

      Stfu you idiot exactly why ppl like u shouldn’t own an animal If you have no time for your dog your irresponsible and shouldn’t own one !

      • Karen Fink

        Nov 19, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        Agree.

    • Janie

      Nov 17, 2017 at 10:16 am

      Apparently you are not ask animals lover!! I don’t think it harsh at all, it will make people think twice before leaving animals outside!! How would you feel if someone threw your ass outside in the hot/cold weather? You wouldn’t like that right!

    • Slowe

      Nov 17, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Like-It is obvious if there is animal cruelty taking place.

  16. Jessica

    Nov 16, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Wonderful law! Amen!

  17. Nick

    Nov 16, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Great, now let’s have a law about leaving homeless people in the cold.

    • thomas dow

      Nov 17, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      MOST homeless people CHOOSE to be homeless and have alternatives to get shelter…..animals are abused by IDIOTS and have no recourse except to suffer! Instead of complaining-get out and do something about it!!!!!!

    • Douglas

      Nov 19, 2017 at 1:31 am

      Absolutely!

    • Kathy

      Nov 19, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Not a bad idea.

  18. Dani

    Nov 16, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    so everyone obviously doesn’t understand the law! FOR ONE THIS IS A TETHERING LAW! this does not have anything to do with dogs that are outside dogs, as long as they have proper shelter, straw, food and water. This is for the assholes who put their dogs on leashes that are all tangled and leave them out there! so yall need to read the new law! just google PA DOG TETHERING LAW!!!!!!!

    • thomas dow

      Nov 17, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      Exactly! Very common sense approach, anyone who has a dog should CONSIDER the needs of the animal just like you would w/ any person or living creature….are people REALLY this STUPID to not understand this???? Heaven help us!!!!

    • Tammy

      Nov 18, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you for clearing that up for people who don’t understand . Now they need a law and stiff penalty for the idiot’s who let their dogs in a hot car with the windows down an inch.

  19. Kelly

    Nov 16, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    I know it is meant with the best intentions but be prepared for a influx of dogs and cats at local animal shelters. Some people can not keep their dogs indoors so the supply them a dog house with straw or blankets or both. I would wager a mint that Pennsylvania will now have more animals in their shelter than they know what to do with.

    • Cathy

      Nov 17, 2017 at 9:08 am

      They’ll an influx of dogs and cats for only this whole year the law was set up . But by next year there should be more willing dog owners who. Treat their dog like family and provides them a home in their home and not outside . Don’t get a dog if you cannot provide proper shelter ! If your going to give away your animals over a law you’ve shouldn’t have have had one . We’re getting rid iDVD ppl like u owning dogs

    • Grey Wolf

      Nov 18, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      I have had many outdoor dogs they lived in kennels not tethered to a tree or a stake. There is a difference.

  20. FarmerBen

    Nov 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    State Stature 5536a.1.iv provides that the law applies to tethered animals in extreme conditions for longer than 30 minutes. The humane officer is wrong, but under this law, that human officer has the right to charge me with a felony.

  21. Bill

    Nov 16, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Make sure to bring the deer and coyote in as well. They’re people too!!!

    • Lynette

      Nov 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      I don’t think this law will be enforced unless a dog is chained up forced to stay outside or seen hunkering down,shivering and trying to get warm. And for the summer, once again, chained up, panting profusely with no shade to get out of the sun. Quit bitching people. They (unfortunately) don’t have enough law enforcement to chase after everyone that breaks this law.

    • Brenda Holt

      Nov 16, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      If u can’t keep yr dog in the. House then u shouldn’t have one .

      • Me

        Nov 18, 2017 at 12:54 am

        Artic dogs love the cold. some people should get a clue

  22. Cindy Garzon

    Nov 16, 2017 at 11:03 am

    This is rediculous as not all dogs are created equal. Some prefer the cold and some prefer the heat. Completely an overstep! My dogs, Labradors will prefer to play foe hours in single digit temps! They are inside more in 90 degree weather

  23. Maureen kee

    Nov 16, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Oh thank god you passed this law, now I have neighbors who leave their dogs out in their yard in all kinds of nasty weather, barking and shivering, now I can call 911 on them and they will be charged with animal cruelty which is a felony and do some jail time!

  24. Joe walsh

    Nov 16, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Where can I read this law? As long as they have a gig house they should be ok outside.

  25. Teresa

    Nov 16, 2017 at 6:44 am

    This is outrageous! Dogs who are kept outside adapt just fine to the cold, just they have for centuries. How do I know? Growing up, we had an outdoor dog. We lovingly supplied extra straw for his house on those extra cold nights, yet where would he be when we woke up to -10 degrees? Happily sitting out in the snow. We might have brought him in but for the fact he preferred the cold.

    • Tracey

      Nov 16, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      did he have a choice?

      • Me

        Nov 18, 2017 at 12:56 am

        Look up artic dogs they don’t want to come inside. My part st bernard loved the snow and you’d have to drag him inside. liberals just like to butt into other’s business when they don’t have a real clue what is really going on.

  26. Shelly

    Nov 15, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    I hope ALL states do this! There is too much abuse and neglect in this world. It breaks my heart. Felony charges is an excellent idea!

    • Jessica

      Nov 16, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      I completely agree & about time!

  27. Ziggy

    Nov 15, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    What about cats?

  28. james scheuer

    Nov 15, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    And will the State teach my dog to tell time? He has a doggie door and comes and goes throughout the day as he pleases.

    • Angela

      Nov 20, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Then he isn’t “tethered” and the new law doesn’t apply. If you read the entire article, it specifically says that felony charges are for when/if the animal suffers severe bodily injury or death as a result. —As a pet owner I’m sure you can agree on that.

  29. Kathy

    Nov 15, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Is this just for dogs? Or other animals, like cats too?

    • Brandy Arnold

      Nov 16, 2017 at 10:48 am

      The law applies to household pets, so yes, cats are included.

  30. Pedro suarez

    Nov 15, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Agree wirh Jesse some dogs are bred to live outdoors and some dogs dont like to be inside as long as their is adequate shelter, food, and water they will be fine. Im certainly not bringing mt livestock inside that will be next.

  31. Renee Arment

    Nov 15, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Amen Martha!

  32. Sharon Acly-Blakeslee

    Nov 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    WHERE’S NEW YORK….HOW DO WE PASS IN EVERY STATE….

  33. Holly

    Nov 15, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Mixed feelings. My Siberians can go out or come in by pet door anytime. So if they decide to go out on their own and stay out over 20 minutes, I could face felony charges? Even if they can come indoors whenever they want? Siberian Huskies tend to enjoy cold weather.

    • Tracey

      Nov 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      I think you will be fine as they will see the dogs have access to the house. I think this law is for people to tie their dogs up outside in all kinds of weather without shelter etc. Happens all the time, and the poor dog gets no attention, neglect is a form of abuse.

  34. carol franklin

    Nov 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    This should be a law in every state. I would love to see it in North Carolina!

  35. Mike Clarkson

    Nov 15, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    As I am for this law, it has to come with exceptions. I have 2 very different dogs. One being a German Shepherd and the other being a boxer. My Shepherd loves to be out sun bathing in the hottest of temperatures and can’t get enough of the snow. He lets himself out of the house when he wants to go out and rings the bell when he is ready to come in.

    My Boxer Nala is quite different. She gets a coat when she goes out because she is a short haired dog that can not take the brunt of a icey cold day. She is happy to just spend 5 minutes out side and come back in and lay around with us.

    People have to have common sense and know their animals. Charging someone with a felony for having their Berniese Mountain dog outside because the dog wants to be outside would just be appalling.

  36. Cheryl

    Nov 15, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Thank goodness! It’s about time! So happy it’s finally passed

  37. Mitch

    Nov 15, 2017 at 5:37 am

    It should be a law everywhere. Inside doesn’t mean your home it could be a building that was heated, Virginia needs to pass this law.

  38. Martha

    Nov 15, 2017 at 5:02 am

    Does this include the Amish dogs that are in rabbit cages 24/7 with no heat source to keep them warm in the Winter, and who will go around enforcing this law? The Amish community in Lancaster County covers a large area and a lot of people have dogs kept in these cages..

    • Brandi

      Nov 18, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Those Amish communities are protected by a loop hole in the law allowing the animals to be treated as livestock. Contact your local government and get your voice heard about those poor animals in Amish puppy mills.The more light shed on this the faster this cruelty can be stopped!

  39. Barbara

    Nov 14, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Every State should. Do the Same for Animals.

  40. Jesse Barron

    Nov 14, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Wish every state had similar laws. It is a shame we have to have a law to enforce common sense and decency. An exception might need to be made for dogs bred to stay out in the winter such as Saint Bernard and Huskies.

    • Linda Wagner

      Nov 16, 2017 at 6:58 am

      Absolutely agree Jesse!! i think they have forgotten about the Northern Breeds. Huskies are bred to withstand temperatures of 70 below. At 32 degrees my dog is just starting to be comfortable. Believe me once the temp goes under 20 we have never left them out. The law shouldn’t be a one fits all. So my snow dog will never be allowed to be in the snow anymore? Very sad!!

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