Midstate SPCA pushes for municipal, state laws to ban tethering dogs outside in freezing weather

The Lancaster County SPCA published this picture of a tethered dog in the snow in a February 2016 newsletter and encouraged residents to get involved.

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Cold temperatures continue throughout the Midstate, and a local animal shelter is worried pets left outside could freeze to death. They’re asking residents to get involved.

Lancaster County SPCA Executive Director Susan Martin showed abc27’s Dawn White some pictures of what they’ve found due to recent cruelty calls.

“He’s in an igloo dog house with a wet blanket covered in feces and mud,” Martin said.

The SPCA has seen dogs tethered outside in freezing weather go up by about 10 percent from last year in Lancaster County

“He was caught and tied around,” Martin said.

Martin showed us pictures of another dog that was stuck outside and couldn’t make it to his doghouse. She said they found him an hour before the historic blizzard started.

“Chances are high that dog would have been staying in that deep snow,” Martin said.

The SPCA asked the owner to put straw and bedding in the doghouse, along with a flap at the entrance.

It’s cases like these that prompted Luzerne County to start a county ordinance making it illegal to tether an animal outside for long periods of time in hot or freezing temperatures.

“If it’s really hot or really cold, that’s when the calls start pouring in for people who genuinely care about the well being of the animal,” Martin said.

Martin told abc27 she wanted a county ordinance for Lancaster County, so we asked Lancaster County Commissioners if that is something they would consider.

“It would be difficult for me to support something that inserts itself into an effort already at the state level,” said Dennis Stuckey, chairman of the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners.

That bill, Senate Bill 373, has been in the House Judiciary Committee since June of 2015.

Martin said the problem is Pennsylvania has no law making it illegal to tether a dog outside. It’s legal to leave an animal outside as long as it has adequate shelter to retain its body heat.

“I think it’s important that people go to their municipality and ask what they need to do to ask for an ordinance like this to be passed so that dogs are not tethered,” Martin said.

Martin said the problem is worst in the southern and eastern ends of the county. She hopes ordinances on a municipal level could begin to solve the problem.

“It’s more of a humane issue to begin with,” Martin said. “There’s been plenty of studies to show that dogs are generally more aggressive that are tied outside. They’re under-socialized. They tend to bite more if they get off their tether because of not being socialized.”

“No one wants to see a dog or a cat outside in very difficult inclement weather,” Stuckey said.

The Lancaster County SPCA asked residents to contact their representative about the state bill in a newsletter they sent out this month. Now they’re hoping residents get involved on the local level as well.


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