Maryland Senate bill would punish owners for pets left outside in inclement weather

MARYLAND – When pets are left outside for long periods of time, not only can it impact their well-being, but it can also stress out community members who worry about those pets. But a new bill in the Maryland Senate aims to make sure those animals are safe and punish pet owners if they’re not.

“This gives law enforcement the teeth now to take enforcement action for those who are leaving animals outside in inclement weather,” Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said. He’s in support of the bill. “With this new law, if the temperatures drop below 32 degrees or exceed 90 degrees, they cannot be outside for periods in excess of 30 minutes without direct supervision of an adult who is checking on them continuously.”

Megan Koester is with the Humane Society of Wicomico County. She says it’s those types of conditions, extreme cold and extreme heat, that can end up taking the life of a four-legged friend.

“Usually in the summer, it’s dehydration, it can actually kill them, from being in extreme heat, same thing like being in hot cars,” she said. “In the wintertime, they can freeze to death, they can get frost bite, hypothermia.”

Both Koester and Sheriff Lewis say it’s a problem Wicomico County deals with year-round, with citizens reporting animals left outside to both offices more frequently than you may think.

“We get several calls a day,” Koester said.

“In the winter time, on a weekly basis, rest assured we’ll get anywhere from 5 to 7 calls a week, when there’s snow on the ground, that will increase to 3 to 5 calls a day,” Sheriff Lewis added.

Koester says she understands some pet owners may think they should be the ones to decide how to handle their pets.

“Some people are going to keep their dogs outside really no matter what, there are different reasons for that, whether we agree with them is our thing,” she said.

But she says this bill just aims to keep all pets safe in all conditions.

“It’s for the best interest of the animal, so at least if that’s something that has to happen, do make sure that you have water that isn’t dirty or frozen for that animal, and make sure they do have adequate shelter,” she said.

Koester adds that their office has already been enforcing this law, but that it’ll be really helpful to have a uniform law across Maryland that all pet owners will need to follow. She adds that if you do keep your pet outside, make sure they are spayed or neutered.

Under the bill, a pet owner found in violation of the law would receive a warning and then a fine up to $1,000 for each time the pet is left outside. The bill is currently heading toward it’s third reading in committee before heading to the house.


Categories: Local News, Maryland