Man calls for bill to require dog owners to bring pets inside during extreme conditions

ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - An Ashland man is calling for a bill that would require dog owners to keep their pets inside once temperatures drop below 35 degrees or exceed 85 degrees.

"With the temperatures we've been having, extreme cold, imagine being out in that and being tied up in it," said Gary Sweeney.

Gary Sweeney posted his petition to So far, over 61,000 people signed the petition.

"The general consensus is that dogs are not susceptible to harsh climates and that their fur makes them resistant to such temperatures. This is untrue. To the contrary, dogs suffer a great deal in these conditions," he wrote.

Sweeney said leaving dogs out in harsh temperatures is "a common practice," and in his petition, he cited a few cases where dogs froze to death or died from the extreme heat.

"People who tend to leave their dogs out in all types of weather chain them up," explained Sweeney. "The people who are doing this are putting shelters up they believe are adequate when in actuality those plastic igloos you can buy with no insulation no flap, it's like being in a refrigerator box."

Sweeney says he is a part of a much larger rescue community in Richmond and Central Virginia. Recently, RACC waived adoption fees to help get more dogs homes, as they were quickly filling up with animals rescued from the elements.

"My personal goal is to get fewer calls in the summer of dogs dying of heat stroke and fewer calls in the winter of dogs freezing to death," he said.

He is hoping House Bill 646, might change that. HB 646 was filed Jan. 9 by John Bell (D-Chantilly). Bell is passionate about protecting animals and placing restrictions on tethering.

"This bill is important to me because my wife has fostered over 50 rescue animals. We have often seen dogs that are found dead or seriously injured while being tethered, helpless, in inclement weather," explained Bell. "I think it's important that we provide a protection and a voice for helpless animals who cannot speak out to protect themselves against irresponsible owners."

Other areas, such as Illinois and Washington, D.C., have signed something similar into law. Sweeney feels that currently laws statewide, with adequate shelter are vague, so he is hoping to see a law pass that would have clear guidelines and protections.

"We didn't pull the idea for this bill out of a hat, there is a real need for this," said Sweeney.

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