Dog owners in Philly could soon face fines for leaving their dogs outside during extreme heat or severe cold.
"The bottom line is that if you own a dog or you own a puppy, bring your dog in the house when it’s extremely cold outside, bring your dog in the house when it’s extremely hot outside," said Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
Johnson, a self-described "animal lover" who owns a Cane Curso named Sasha Blu, said phone calls from his 2nd District constituents in Center City, South and Southwest Philadelphia led him to draft Bill No. 140080. The bill would make it illegal to tie or chain a pet or animal outside during extreme weather.
"It will provide a level of fine but also bring awareness to make sure that people who own pets -- specifically dogs, puppies, and in some cases, other animals -- making sure that they’re taking care of them,” Johnson told NBC10.com.
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The bill, which was discussed Thursday by the Committee on Licenses and Inspections, includes a measure allowing fines for anyone who leaves a pet outside when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees or in extreme weather conditions like sleet, snow and or wind that could threaten the health or safety of the animal.
The bill excludes taking the animal outside for brief walks or exercise in sub-zero or extreme heat conditions. It does however include animals left in doghouses.
“We want to make sure that we take care of our animal’s welfare,” Johnson said.
Dogs and cats cannot cool down or keep warm the way a person can, and are more susceptible to the elements, according to the SPCA.
“It’s really detrimental to their health,” said Pennsylvania SPCA spokeswoman Sarah Eremes. “You can actually see animals pass away.”
Last year, Eremes said the PSPCA received more than 200 calls alleging animal cruelty due to animals left out in high heat or deep cold for hours at a time.
“In the wintertime, sometimes those dog houses can serve as coolers, and some people don’t realize that,” said Eremes. “In the summertime having an animal chained up inside of a doghouse can actually serve as an oven.”
Johnson’s bill still needs to pass through committee before it is put up for council vote.
Animal advocates applauded the bill but there is some concern that it could lead to unnecessary regulation.
“It won’t be over-regulation, more importantly it will also provide a level of information and awareness to this very, very critical and important issue,” said Johnson.
“We’re in favor of any type of legislation that would keep our animals in our city safer or healthier,” said Eremes.
Johnson said the plan is to warn pet owners before issuing fines. He didn’t disclose the amount of the penalty.
Eremes said all pet owners should be certain to give their animals extra water and shade anytime they take the animal outside on extreme days.
A good rule to follow is that if it’s too hot or cold for you to be outside than it is probably too hot for your pet as well.