What You Need to Know About PA's Weather Laws

Jul 29, 2019   Tracey Aston   Pet Safety

On June 29 2017, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed “Libre's Law.” The law, named after a puppy rescued from a near-death situation in July 2016, took effect August 28, 2017. Libre, a Boston terrier, was found starving, covered in mange and left for dead at an Amish dog-breeding farm in Lancaster County in 2016. He was saved by a delivery-truck driver who saw him a number of times over a two-month period. At the time of its signing, Libre's Law was considered the most comprehensive animal protection measure in the state's history.

Specifically, this law requires:

  • A leash must be three times the length of the pet or 10 feet, whichever is longer.
  • No tow or logged chain or pinch, choke, or prong collars used with a tether.
  • A well-fitted collar and no open sores or wounds on the dog's body.
  • The lead must be on a swivel and ideally a lead that has a coated cover to avoid getting tangled.
  • The area where the pet is kept must be kept clear of excessive feces with access to drinkable water and shade.
  • No more than nine consecutive hours on a leash in a day's time.
  • No more than 30 minutes tied up when temperatures are lower than 32 degrees or higher than 90 degrees.

Animal protection laws are something we are very passionate about but the law isn't as easy and straightforward as it seems.  While it is true that police, animal control and humane officers are now required to respond and report these incidents, the biggest issue, as always, is proof.  Be aware that some police may not be aware of this law and may believe it is not under their jurisdiction, but under Libre's law, it is. If you do file a police report, be sure to get an incident number. If you can't get the police to respond, the next step is to contact the humane officers and get a case number. Animal control will not have any report or case number, but should have a log of the call, as that's how they get paid.

Providing proof of the violations falls into the person reporting the crime. That's not to say a well-meaning animal lover shouldn't try, it means be prepared to back up your case. The individual reporting the crime needs to be able to prove the length of time the animal is outdoors without shade or access to fresh water. This can be done with either video evidence or some way to prove someone was not home and the dog was not taken in during 9 consecutive hours. You have to prove someone hasn't let the dog in and out during the time frame. Even if a dog was only let in for 10 minutes, it won't count as 9 consecutive hours and they won't be able to enforce it.

At first glance, the tethering laws sound like a wonderful way to protect animals, but it should be noted that tethering alone isn't enough to break the law. Tethering limits can only be enforced if there's neglect present and the dog's needs aren't being met. Basic needs include access to dry shelter and clean water. In winter conditions, water must not be frozen or undrinkable. 

While violations of the laws now come with stiffer penalties, and officers will be able to file felony charges for first time offenses, the legislation also breaks down the penalties for different grades of cruelty based on the how bad the conduct was and how many prior offenses the defendant had instead of lumping the charges together. All of which goes back to proof. Waiting until obvious signs of neglect can often mean it's too late, therefore providing solid concrete proof of continued violations must be filed. 

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