New bill would prohibit leaving hunting, sled dogs outside

dog outside

By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News 

Rhode Island state law is leaving certain dogs out in the cold.

While current laws prohibit dog owners from leaving their pets tied up or confined outside for extended periods of time, the law exempts hunting dogs, sled dogs and those that protect livestock.

Dennis Tabella, Director of Defenders of Animals, wants that to change.

“We believe that all dogs need to be protected when you have a situation of freezing weather or extremely hot temperatures,” he told WPRO News.

He plans to work with a state lawmaker to submit a bill that would remove the language exempting sled and hunting dogs.

He’s also working with Rep. Joseph Solomon, Jr. to get a bill passed that would prevent animals being kept outside when the “ambient temperature is beyond the industry standard for the weather safety scale as set forth in the most recent adopted version of the Tufts Animal Care and Condition Weather Safety Scale (TACC).”

Currently, the law prohibits keeping any dog on a permanent tether, using a choke-type collar or keeping a dog outside for more than 10 to 14 hours. The law, however, doesn’t apply to dogs being trained or used for hunting, sledding or livestock protection.

“I would label it as neglect,” Tabella said of keeping any outside for extended periods of time. “Just because you think that you’ve had experience with hunting dogs doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable, it doesn’t mean they’re in the best environment possible.”

But State Veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall says the laws have a purpose.

“We have to understand that not all dogs are pets,” Marshall told WPRO News. “People have a tendency to view them all as pets, but some of them aren’t. Some of them are guard dogs, some of them are hunting dogs, some are sled dogs, and provisions have to be made for those dogs to be able to work in the environments that they’re expected to work in.”

He said it would be crueler to keep a hunting dog inside at warmer temperature and then expose them to extreme cold. He also says hunting and sled dogs were selected because their breeds can handle the elements.

“It’s humane. It’s safe. It’s regulated,” he said. “I’m not saying you put a Chihuahua outside and say I’m hunting with my Chihuahua, that doesn’t make sense.”