Is It Illegal to Leave Your Dog Outside in the Winter?

Last month, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring reminded law enforcement and the state’s pet owners that leaving animals outside in the cold can be considered animal cruelty.

Thanks to a new state law that went into effect on July 1, 2020, pet owners are legally required to protect their animals from severe weather in Virginia. If you leave your animal outside without proper shelter when the weather drops to 32 degrees or lower, a law enforcement officer may ask you to surrender your animal, or they may take your animal into temporary custody against your will. Furthermore, you may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor for animal cruelty. A conviction could result in a prison sentence of up to one year.

As we enter the coldest part of the year, pet owners must take great care to meet their animals’ needs. Here are a few tips to keep in mind this winter:

  • Remember that, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s likely too cold for your pet. Temperatures below freezing are not just uncomfortable—they are deadly.
  • Skip shaving your pet during the winter so their fur coat can help keep them warm. If they have short hair, give them a sweater or coat.
  • Keep your pet well-fed. Your pet will need more food and water in the winter because the cold weather depletes their energy. Additionally, make sure their food and water is in a location that prevents them from freezing, and use plastic containers so their tongue doesn’t stick to the frozen metal.
  • Be careful of winter-related poisons. Antifreeze and rock salt are two examples of substances that many Virginians use in the winter without realizing the potential effects they can have on animals. Keep antifreeze cleaned up and out of reach of your pet, and wipe down their paws if they walk on areas where you’ve used rock salt.
  • If they must stay outside, provide your animal with a warm bed and doghouse. If you don’t have these supplies, and you happen to live in Richmond, message the Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) on Facebook or call them at (804) 646-5573 to request a delivery of straw bales or a doghouse.

For more information about protecting animals during the winter, visit the winter guide by The Humane Society of the United States. If you have been accused of mistreating your pet, get in touch with an experienced attorney right away.

Bring Your Case to Our Dedicated Attorney

At The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC, our lawyer has 15+ years of experience providing effective and aggressive advocacy for her clients. Animal cruelty is a serious charge, but you may have several possible defenses at your disposal. Our attorney can take the time to fully assess your situation and develop a powerful defense on your behalf.

Call (703) 940-0001 or contact us online to schedule your initial case evaluation today.

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