Howard County dog owners leaving pets in dangerous weather could be fined

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Howard County pet owners could get bitten by fines depending on how they keep their dogs outside in excessive heat or cold.

The County Council passed a bill Friday mandating that dogs must be protected from weather that could harm or kill them. It also requires proper shelters for dogs left unattended by owners for 30 minutes or more, specifying the size, type of bedding and access water at all times.

Owners who don’t follow the letter of the law can be fined up to $500 for repeat offenses. Citations — starting with $100 fines — could be issued by animal control officers or police.

The legislation will become law 61 days after it is signed by County Executive Allan Kittleman, who supports the measure, according to press secretary Andy Barth.

The council made several changes to the proposal, introduced in June by Councilman Jon Weinstein, a Democrat who represents Ellicott City.

“When I first thought of doing this bill, I thought, ‘Well, this will be an easy one,’” said Weinstein, a dog owner. “It’s important to a large number of people in our community.”

Jessie Keller, Weinstein’s district aide, said cats weren’t included in the bill because they didn’t hear complaints from constituents about cats left in extreme weather.

Strict temperature requirements were removed from the initial proposal to allow animal control officials greater flexibility in determining what is appropriate weather for dogs, since it would vary by breed and size, Weinstein said. Smaller dogs may need to be prevented from going out in the heat before it reaches 90 degrees, which was a previously specified hot-weather limit, he explained.

The legislation would also enable the county’s animal administrator post alerts on the animal control website, social media and in news releases, which Weinstein has previously said could be used to send law reminders, share tips and information about planned extreme weather.

“As a dog lover and someone who has had a dog his entire life, I’m pleased we’re moving this forward," Weinstein said.

Dog and cat owners are required to license their pets each year, and there are 8,512 active dog licenses and 1,363 cat licenses in Howard County, said Bob Firmani, the operations chief for the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

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