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Temperature Restrictions, Penalties in Place with New Animal Cruelty Laws

Sturdy straw-filled shelter in use by one of the ferals.
Sturdy straw-filled shelter in use by one of the ferals.

November 16, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today reminded Pennsylvanians to bring pets indoors as temperatures continue to drop statewide. Pennsylvania’s new animal cruelty protections, signed into law in June 2017 and championed by Governor Wolf, included new protections and penalties for cold weather.

“This is the first cold weather season since we strengthened the animal cruelty laws in Pennsylvania, which include temperature and shelter restrictions for outdoor pets,” said Governor Wolf. “For far too long we have heard stories of neglected and abused animals who suffered because of deplorable treatment, and with our new landmark anti-cruelty legislation in place, penalties will be enforced for individuals who abuse or neglect an animal.”

Act 10, which strengthens Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws, states that a dog cannot be tethered for longer than 30 minutes in temperatures above 90 or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, animals must be provided sanitary shelter that allows the animal to maintain normal body temperature and keeps the animal dry all year.

“The Humane Society of the United States, Pennsylvania Vet Medical Association, and a number of state and federal agencies strongly support the anti-tethering components of Act 10, which include long overdue, reasonable stipulations regarding the length of time and conditions in which a dog can be kept outside during inclement weather,” said Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania State Director of the Humane Society of the United States. “Continuous tethering can cause severe physical damages such as cracked and bleeding paws, frostbite and hypothermia. We encourage the public to help to keep the dogs of Pennsylvania safe and warm this winter by reporting animal neglect to the local humane society police officer, local or state police. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them.”

Earlier this year, the governor signed the package of bills, which includes Libre’s Law. The updated measures clarify the definition of abuse and raise penalties and training and education programs are being developed to prepare authorities responsible for protecting animals through identification and prosecution of animal cruelty crimes.

The key components of the legislation include:

Improved tethering conditions for outside dogs

  • No more than 9 hours tethered in 24-hour period.
  • Tether must be the longer of 3 times length of dog or 10 feet.
  • No more than 30 minutes in 90+ or -32-degree weather.
  • Must have water and shade.
  • Must be secured by an appropriate collar — no tow or log chain, nor choke, pinch, prong, or chain collars.
  • Tethered space must be clear of excessive waste.
  • No open sores or wounds on the dog’s body.

Added protections for horses

  • Currently, most crimes against horses are graded as summary offenses — similar to traffic and littering violations.
  • This law aligns penalties for crimes against horses with penalties for crimes against dogs and cats.

Increased penalties for animal abuse

  • Neglect: Summary offense (up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine) OR misdemeanor of the third degree (up to 1 year in jail and/or $2,000 fine) if neglect causes bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk
  • Cruelty: Misdemeanor of the second degree (up to 2 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine)
  • Aggravated cruelty: Felony of the third degree (up to 7 years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine)

Ensures convicted animal abusers forfeit abused animals to a shelter

  • Requires forfeiture of animal of anyone convicted of a felony violation and allows for fortitude upon other convictions.

Grants civil immunity for veterinarians and veterinary technicians

  • Shields licensed doctors of veterinary medicine, technicians, and assistants who report animal cruelty in good faith from lawsuits.


In Pennsylvania

The City of Pittsburgh updated its tethering laws two years ago. See Legislation in Pittsburgh Protecting Dogs in Severe Weather.

Cats aren’t typically tethered, but the portion of the law that applies to shelter does apply to cats who are outdoors.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers links on the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement page for reporting abuses, but the link for Humane Society Police Officers returns a 404 error. This page also under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture contains a Humane Society Police Officers database searchable by county.



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2 thoughts on “Temperature Restrictions, Penalties in Place with New Animal Cruelty Laws

    • Yes, finally, a little step in the right direction, although it’s pretty dog-centric, I’ll take it!


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