Submitted on behalf of the Bedford Police Department
According to state law, dogs cannot be left outside when a weather advisory, warning or watch is issued by local state or federal authority. The National Weather Service is responsible for issuing such advisories and warnings.
Additionally, dogs cannot be left outside when weather conditions, such as extreme heat, cold, wind, rain or snow, pose a risk to the health and safety of the dog based on its breed, age and physical condition.
Owners who fail to adhere to the laws could be fined up to $500 for each violation and be subject to the impoundment of the pet in a local animal shelter at the owner’s or guardian’s expense.
“It’s important for people to know that we have strict laws in Massachusetts around leaving animals outside in the cold,” Chief Bongiorno said. “If residents are concerned about an animal, please contact the police department so that we can handle the situation appropriately.”
According to The Humane Society of the United States, people should notify local law enforcement agencies if they see dogs or cats left outside in extreme temperatures, especially without food and shelter.
The Humane Society warns that dogs and cats feel the effects of winter just as much as people do, however they are often cast outside due to the misconception that their fur will insulate them from suffering.
For pet owners unsure of what protections their pets need during cold weather, the Humane Society provides the following tips for keeping animals safe:
- Keep pets sheltered and inside. Pet cats should never be left outdoors in cold weather, even if they roam outside during other seasons. Dogs should be taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time.
- If dogs are outdoors for a majority of the day, they must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that’s large enough for them to move comfortably, but small enough to retain body heat.
- Shelter floors should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The door should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
- Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter as keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen.
- Use plastic food and water bowls to avoid having your pet’s tongue to stick and freeze to metal bowls in cold temperatures.
- Bundle up dogs, especially short-haired dogs, with protective gear, such as sweaters and boots, to avoid the risks of frostbite and hypothermia from exposed skin and pad paws.
- Make sure to wipe down paws from rock salt and other snow melting chemicals with a damp towel before your pet licks them and risks getting sick.
- Keep pets away from antifreeze and household chemicals as they can pose a deadly risk if ingested.
- Be aware that cats are attracted to warm engines in parked cars, to avoid injuring hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
For more cold weather protection tips and information, visit the Humane Society’s website. For more information around Massachusetts State Laws surrounding animals being left outside in cold weather, read more on the Massachusetts State Legislature website.