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House bill aims to clarify law regarding pets out in the cold

Torsten Behrens

“If you’re cold, they’re cold. Bring them inside."

A proposal in Lansing would clarify what constitutes animal cruelty during the winter months.

The legislation mentions Michigan’s puppy mill industry as a particular problem. Dogs are often kept in pens with wire floors. And in the winter months, officials say that housing is simply inadequate.

Under the proposal, dog owners would have to provide some way of keeping the animal warm, like layers of dry bedding. However, it is not mandatory for every animal. Dog breeds with double coats or long fur could be exempt. The health of the dog would also be taken into consideration.

The proposal was a response to the number of calls he and other representatives get about pets left out in the cold winter months, said bill sponsor Representative Tommy Brann (MI-R).

“I jokingly said I’d like to have the committee hearing outside in weather like this we’re having today," Brann said. "I think that would be very powerful!”

The bill is a step in the right direction, said Dawn Jevicks, the Community Manager for Humane Animal Treatment Society in Mount Pleasant.

"I personally own a Great Pyreneese and Australian Shepherd mix who loves being the snow and the cold, but he’s built for that weather," Jevicks said. "He has a double or triple coat. And I have two Golden Doodles. The doodles don’t stay out for nearly as long–their paws get bundled up for all the snow."

The proposal does a good job of specifying what kind of bedding is suitable for a shelter and other ways of temperature control, Jevicks said.

Yet she would like to see more language in the bill regarding tethering animals while they're outdoors, she said. Dogs could tip over their water bowl and become more aggressive.

The legislation is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.