Legislators will consider a slew of bills related to animal cruelty in 2020, including one proposed by Rep. Katherine Rogers aimed at protecting pets that are kept outdoors.
Current laws on shelter
Current state law defines “necessary shelter” for dogs as:
“any natural or artificial area which provides protection from the direct sunlight and adequate air circulation when that sunlight is likely to cause heat exhaustion of a dog tied or caged outside. Shelter from the weather shall allow the dog to remain clean and dry. Shelter shall be structurally sound and have an area within to afford the dog the ability to stand up, turn around and lie down, and be of proportionate size as to allow the natural body heat of the dog to be retained.”
Proposed details on shelter
HB 1389, the bill sponsored by Rep. Rogers, adds specific details to the current law requiring adequate food, water, and shelter for animals.
The bill requires:
That animals have access to clean, fresh potable water that is at a drinkable temperature. The food and water must be clean, kept in durable receptacles and given often enough to keep the animal nourished.
Shelter for any dog left outside more than 30 minutes. Such shelter would have to be moisture-proof, wind-proof, and big enough for the dog to stand in and to lie down with its limbs outstretched. The floor would also have to be raised at least 3 inches off the ground with the roof extending 8 inches over the doorway. It couldn’t be made of metal or any other material that readily conducts cold or heat.
Between October 1 and April 30th, the shelter would also have to have a windbreak at the entrance and have clean bedding made of specified materials to keep the dog warm and dry.
Between May 1 and September 21 dogs must have access to at least one area of shade big enough to accommodate the dog’s entire body. The shaded area does not include the doghouse described earlier.
Animals can’t be left outside unattended for more than 15 minutes during a severe weather warning or in weather that is below-freezing/above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Protecting New Hampshire animals from abuse
Proponents of this new bill say that current animal cruelty laws are not specific enough about what constitutes adequate shelter. New Hampshire has a harsh climate, with scorching hot summers and frigid winters—this makes it especially important that the law protect pets from being left outdoors in these dangerous conditions.
Or state government overreach?
On the other hand, critics feel the bill’s language is too specific about how pet owners must treat their animals. Ultimately, animals are the personal property of their owners, and it should be largely up to those owners to decide what they consider “adequate” treatment. For example, heartier dog breeds such as huskies have much higher tolerance for cold temperatures, and therefore they shouldn’t be limited to fifteen minutes outdoors when it is below freezing.