This US State Made It a Felony to Leave Dogs Out in Extremely Cold Weather, and Here’s Why

April 30, 2019 Updated: May 5, 2019

With the winter months nearly in full swing, here’s one more reason for  pet owners to be mindful not to leave their animals outside in the cold for too long.

In the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, a relatively new law, Libre’s law, was passed in June 2017 that criminalizes such acts of neglect, subjecting offenders to stiff penalties. Indeed, it seems like a humane law considering what some pets have been through!

Libre, the dog after which the law is named, is one such animal whose owner was less than attentive to his well-being. A Boston terrier pup just 7 weeks old, Libre was found dying outside in cold weather by a produce driver named Dexin, who rescued him.

Posted by Dillsburg Veterinary Center on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Libre survived, thankfully, though his skin was covered with crusty mange due to being left in the cold for too long, while he had ulcers in his eyes as well. His prognosis for survival did not look good at the time, doctors said.

He made it, though, and he was adopted by Janine Guido; and it was love at first sight when she first saw him.

“I just really connected with him. I don’t know why, because I’ve rescued so many dogs,” said Guido. “I get butterflies before I visit him. Something about Libre really captured my heart.”

It was Libre’s story (and other dogs like him) that inspired not only public sympathy but also officials’, and led to the taking of legislative action. House bill 1238 was signed in order to punish those who intentionally torture, neglect, or abuse their animals to the point of severe injury or death.

“Don’t leave them outside. The new law is pretty clear,” said Mercer County Humane Officer Paul Tobin. “Anything under 32 degrees, anything over 90 degrees, your dogs are not allowed outside for more than 20 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Libre’s law makes animal cruelty a felony. Offenders may be subjected to fines of $15,000 or as long as seven years in jail. Although this is meant to protect pets and animals, the increased penalties are also meant to send a message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.

And all this has made a difference by placing the onus of responsibility squarely on the shoulders of pet owners—some of whom have returned their pets to shelters because they felt they could not properly take care of their animals.

The state was, thus, recently recognized by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society as being the “most improved” in terms of animal protection laws.

Posted by Dillsburg Veterinary Center on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Governor Tom Wolf, who originally signed the bill, celebrated the first year of Libre’s law being put in place during a gathering where he and Libre met and had a doggy cake. On Twitter, he wrote the following message:

I’m here with Libre to celebrate the first anniversary of #LibresLaw. Together we signed Pennsylvania’s animal welfare reforms into law one year ago today, making the commonwealth a safer place for PA pets.

Congratulations to the State of Pennsylvania for their contribution to the well-being of animals, as they too are lives who suffer like any other. And congratulations to Libre for enduring such irresponsible humans and not letting them keep a good dog down.