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Gov. Wolf and police remind pet owners to bring animals indoors

Governor Tom Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians Thursday to bring pets inside as Winter weather closes in.

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians Thursday to bring their pets inside as winter weather closes in.

New laws went into effect earlier this year that included harsher penalties for animal cruelty, and new restrictions on having pets outdoors.

“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," Wolf said in a release.

The laws prohibit dogs from being tethered outside for more than a half-hour in temperatures below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Central Pennsylvania Humane Society police said they're already receiving calls from concerned neighbors about dogs left out in the cold.

Officer Paul Gottshall said that the dogs often suffer from frostbite when they get to them, or they have no access to water because it's frozen.

He said just a dog house outside is not enough to keep pets safe and alive.

"If you're going to have a dog outside and it's not attached to a chain, and it is an outside dog, it has to have an insulated box. It has to have plenty of room for the dog to turn around and keep its normal body temperature. All dog houses should have a flap on them to keep the wind out," he said.

“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," Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said.

Humans have the option of bundling up to stay warm outdoors, but animals can't do the same.

"A human absorbs the cold differently than a pet does. A pet does not have a coat or a jacket on. They have to use their own body heat," Gottshall said, adding, "Just because they have fur on them does not mean it's keeping them warm."

The governor's office released the following details from the legislation, reminding Pennsylvanians of the new penalties for animal cruelty and abuse:

Improved tethering conditions for outside dogs

No more than nine hours tethered in 24-hour period.

Tether must be longer than three times length of dog or 20 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 third degree misdemeanor (up to two years in jail and/or $2,000 fine) if neglect causes bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk

-Cruelty: Second-degree misdemeanor (up to 2 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine)

-Aggravated cruelty: Third-degree felony (up to seven 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

-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.

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