On the paws of newly codified rights to join their masters at outdoor dining venues, Delaware dogs now have new protections that will help keep them healthy and safe.
The new legislation signed by Governor John Carney yesterday also has a leash provision to keep other people safe around dogs.
Carney signed Senate Bill 139 at Carousel Park’s Bark Park in Pike Creek, a measure that will improve shelter and tether standards that pose risks to the health and safety of dogs.
Carney was joined at the ceremony by a slate of legislators and animal organizations, including Jane Pierantozzi, Executive Director of Faithful Friends Animal Society, who had pushed for the new law.
“This law is the direct result of an outcry by Delaware citizens and animal shelter directors who have witnessed the suffering of dogs left in extreme weather conditions or chained for long periods of time,” said Pierantozzi. “It is cruel to leave animals in conditions that expose them to physical harm and mental distress,” she said.
Rep. Stephanie Hansen, one of the bill’s sponsors, says the bill will ensure greater accountability for the health and safety of pets. “Too often, we see pet owners that do not care for their dogs in a responsible way and, as a result, the animal suffers, sometimes fatally.”
The new law provides the state’s Office of Animal Welfare the legal means to intervene on behalf of animals in situations where their wellbeing is imperiled. Faithful Friends highlighted these specific provisions of the law as critical to dog safety:
Dog off leash – this law further defines that a dog can only be off-leash on a person’s property. A dog cannot be off-leash while you walk your dog in the community exceptions include a dog park, working dogs or a municipality with their own rule on this matter.
Tethering a dog outside: Current law allows a dog to be tied up outside for up to 18 hours a day. This bill changes the outdoor tethering law to no more than 9 hours a day with supervision.
Dogs also cannot be tethered for more than two hours at a time when the owner is not on the property.
Dogs outside in extreme weather: This legislation says that a dog cannot be outside for more than 15 minutes (to go to the bathroom) during a national weather warning/severe weather warning for extreme heat and cold. Food and water must also be provided in a manner in which they would not freeze.
Kenneling dogs and wire flooring – Dogs can no longer be put in shelters with just wire flooring. Wire flooring is often used by breeders and hunters who house dogs in easy to clean kennels without regard for the dog’s comfort. Wire flooring was going to be eliminated, but this was a concession as wire flooring helps to keep cages clean of feces and urine. However, under this law, there has to be an area where the dog can get off the wire flooring for their comfort and wellbeing.
“This bill is so important because it raises the floor on what we, as a society, are agreeing is acceptable, responsible, care for our dogs and it holds us accountable for that care.,” said Hansen. “We cannot legislate compassion. But approaching the issue from a different direction, we can prohibit cruelty and this is a very important part of our growth as a compassionate society.”