HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A fight is underway to change the laws regarding dogs kept outside, even in severe weather.
An online petition has nearly 10,000 signatures. It was started by Gary Sweeney, who got his start as an animal advocate by working to save dogs in Korea.
A case in Henrico is turning his attention closer to home.
"A dog was left out on a leash, day and night. Never brought inside, didn't matter the weather. It was freezing, ice outside ... the owner wouldn't bring the dog in," said Sweeney, who went to the home to see if he could help the dog.
He, along with other volunteers, offered to give the family food for the dog, and even supply a dog house. The offers were refused.
"Animal control came out and told me 'listen, it's not how I would keep my dog, it's inhumane, but no law is being broken,'" recalled Sweeney.
No law was being broken, so now he's looking to change the law.
"Dogs freezing to death, or from heat stroke, the amount of that that is reported, pales in the amount of it that actually happens," said Sweeney.
He's been meeting with local lawmakers to garner support, and he hopes to get someone to sponsor the bill soon. A past bill that was similar got tabled, but Sweeney hopes to meet with those who resisted that bill and find a middle ground.
He hopes a new law will make people bring their dogs in overnight and if there is severe weather. It would require you to bring your dog inside if the temperature drops below freezing or above 85 degrees. It would also address guidelines for proper care and shelter.
"I'm hoping this will educate people, let them know this is happening on a regular basis and that we can change it," said Sweeney.
He hopes to work with those in the hunting and agriculture communities to create the best law for both working and companion animals.
"We want to work with you, we understand that in the hunting and farming, it's their livelihood, and we don't want to encroach on that," he explained.
He also encourages those who want to get involved to find their lawmaker and voice their support.
You can find your local representative by checking out http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/.
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