CITY COUNCIL members gave initial approval yesterday to a bill that makes it illegal to leave pets outdoors in extreme hot and cold temperatures.
Tales of woe were heard during an afternoon hearing on a bill sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson - a professed dog lover - that puts regulations on pet owners who leave their four-legged friends out in temperatures frigid or scorching.
Julia Bringhurt, a Point Breeze resident, described how she routinely witnesses a dog left outside, year-round, in a 5-by-6 cement patio behind her neighbor's house.
"It was filled with construction debris. The dog had no enclosed shelter other than the four walls of the patio, his food was dumped on the ground and his water was often frozen solid," she said.
The homeowner "has numerous code violations against the property for unsafe living conditions. That big, furry dog looks like it just needs a hug."
Passed favorably out of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections yesterday, the bill would require dog and cat owners to bring their pets inside when temperatures fall below 32 degrees or rise above 85 degrees.
An existing state animal-cruelty statute provides some protections for pets in these circumstances. Specifically, it prohibits depriving animals of "necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter . . . "
But many who testified yesterday said that law doesn't go far enough.
"In extreme heat, my staff and I have examined doghouses with internal temperatures that made them feel like ovens," said George Bengal, the Pennsylvania SPCA's Director of Humane Law Enforcement.
Bengal said that last year alone, his office investigated more than 200 complaints of dogs left out in the cold or extreme heat.
"In the winter, we have recovered the bodies of dogs left outdoors in a doghouse whose bodies were literally frozen to the floor of the house," he said.
The measure goes to the full Council for a vote next week. If it passes, pet owners who ignore the law could face fines up to $300.
Critics of the bill say it's just another big brother, nanny-state piece of poop.