SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A group is pushing to change state law and keep animals safe in the cold.
“If you continually keep your dog outside when it’s too cold, it’s animal cruelty,” said Lt. Chris Klekas with Salt Lake County Animal Services.
Klekas says officers respond to roughly 15-20 calls per week of pets in the cold without proper shelter.
The problem? State law is vague on what “shelter” is.
“They really just have to have a structure that they can go in, and be protected from wind, rain, snow,” said Klekas.
Even though state law mandates sheltering pets in the cold, the Humane Society of Utah says that law doesn’t go far enough.
It’s why the group, along with the Humane Society of the United States, will be lobbying in the next legislative session to amend state law.
“We know that’s not really the best, we know that’s not a humane environment for a dog in freezing cold temperatures,” said Deann Shepherd with Humane Society of Utah.
It’s why the Humane Society is lobbying to change the definition of shelter in Utah in the next legislative session.
Some proposals would be that a dog has a waterproof roof, clean bedding material, a windproof structure.
Some of the proposals also say what shelter isn’t: crawl spaces under buildings, steps attached to a a building — or, for example, cardboard boxes.
“We would love to be able to quote an ordinance that says, you have to have some type of minimal insulation, or a door — or a flap, to your dog house,” said Lt. Klekas.
He says officers would welcome more clarity. Many times, he says, officers have arrived to a home where a homeowner isn’t breaking the law, but the dog isn’t given an ideal shelter.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Utah’s animal cruelty laws are among the weakest in the country — ranking 47th out of 50 states.