Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his Animal Law Unit sent a letter this week to animal control officers around Virginia highlighting new animal cruelty laws that went into effect earlier this month, according to a news release.
The letter reminds animal control officers that heat can be deadly to animals, and that there can be serious legal consequences for leaving animals outside without adequate shelter and water.
“Extreme temperatures, like what we are currently experiencing here in Virginia, pose a real threat to the health and safety of animals that are left outside without adequate shelter or water,” Herring said in a statement.
“These new laws further protect animals, require owners to protect their animals from the elements with adequate shelter, and give law enforcement the tools they need to ensure the health and safety of animals. As we continue to deal with this oppressive heat wave, I would encourage all Virginians to take care of yourselves, your friends and your families and don’t forget about also taking care of your pets.”
Leaving an animal trapped in a car or exposed to the elements with no shelter or inadequate shelter can be considered animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, the attorney general said.
New more stringent tethering provisions are now in place, outlining that an animal cannot be tied up unless it is safe from predators and well suited and well equipped to tolerate its environment. Animals may not be chained or tied up when hurricane warning or tropical storm warnings are in effect, during a heat advisory, freezing or below freezing temperatures, or during a severe weather warning.
Attorney General Herring and his Animal Law Unit advised animal control officers to ask owners to bring animals inside or into shelter, ask the owner to surrender the animal if they are unable to provide adequate shelter, or in certain circumstances take temporary custody of an animal to ensure its safety.