New Jersey’s new care requirements for dogs and other pets and service animals has already proven an effective tool for animal control and law enforcement trying to save animals from exposure to bad weather and inhumane tethering. The new law signed August 7, 2017 amends Title 4, Chapter 19 of New Jersey statutes and provides:
a. No dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal may be exposed to “adverse environmental conditions” for more than 30 minutes unless the animal has continuous access to shelter which means an enclosed, insulated structure with a solid roof, walls and floor with an opening no larger than to allow the animal to enter and exit comfortably, provide shade, and keep the animal at a normal body temperature.
(“Adverse environmental conditions” means (1) when the ambient temperature is 32 degrees F or below, or there are other conditions, such as wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet, or hail, such that a person should reasonably know would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the animal, based on the animal’s size, age, physical condition, or thickness of the animal’s hair or fur; or (2) when the temperature is 90 degrees F or above, or the animal is exposed to direct sunlight or hot pavement, such that a person should reasonably know would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the animal, based on the animal’s size, age, physical condition, or thickness of thickness of the animal’s fur.)
b. In the event of an evacuation order, it is now illegal not to make every effort to take pets to a safe location. They may not be left indoors unattended or tied up outside.
c. All dogs and other pets and service animals must have access to proper shelter regardless of the weather. If the animal is not in the house, he or she must have access to a structure that (1) has ventilation, (2) allows the animal to remain dry and maintain a normal body temperature, (3) allows access to clean, nonfrozen water, (4) provides exposure to natural or artificial light according to a regular cycle of day and night, (5) has sufficient space so that the animal can easily turn around in a full circle and lie down on the animal’s side with limbs outstretched, and (6) has at least three inches of empty space above the head of the animal when the animal is in a normal sitting or standing position in the shelter;
The shelter must be maintained in a manner to minimize the accumulation of any waste, other debris, precipitation, or other moisture inside, surrounding, and underneath the shelter, and to provide reasonable protection from flooding. The shelter must remain upright at all times and be soundly constructed to prevent the sagging or collapse and with no sharp points or edges.
Crawl spaces, areas under a vehicle, structures made with pressure treated wood, cardboard, or other materials easily degraded by the elements won’t comply. And no wire or chain link flooring or really any flooring with openings that allow a paw or hoof to fall through.
These shelter requirements do not apply to breeders, kennels, pet shops, shelters or pounds.
Those laws that have time limits on tethering dogs have in some cases proven difficult if not impossible to enforce. California’s 3 hour limit on tethering is an example. In this New Jersey law, persons are prohibited from tethering dogs from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. outside and must allow the dog to move 15 feet in any one direction. There are exceptions if the person is outside with the dog or can see the dog at all times. The new law also prohibits tethering outside in adverse weather conditions for more than 30 minutes. Any dog tethered more than 30 minutes must have access to clean non frozen water.
There is also a ban on tethering nursing females and puppies less than four months old.
There are restrictions on the types of collar and tethers that can be used, a ban on tethering with other dogs or on vacant lots or in abandoned buildings.
The new law does not apply to breeders and there are other exceptions.
What You Can Do
The new law requires municipalities or cities to educate the public about the new law. Your help is invaluable in protecting dogs and other pets from weather and inhumane tethering. If you see a potential violation, note the date, time and location; write down the details, and take photos or video. Then call animal control, NJ SPCA or the police. Follow up if the situation is not fixed. There is no provision allowing a concerned citizen to rescuer to take an animal held in violation of these laws. But the authorities may do so if they have a reasonable suspicion the animal is at risk of imminent harm. There are otherwise provisions for corrective warnings, fines, seizure pursuant to a warrant and the like.