Dog safety

Rocket, an SPCA dog, accompanied Gov. John Carney as he signed a bill into law Wednesday at Carousel Park dog park

Dogs left tied up, alone, for hours at a time... pets left outside to fend for themselves in extremely cold or hot temperatures... dogs kept in dilapidated dog houses.

No animal should live like that, according to their advocates.

Now, in Delaware, owners of dogs are subject to penalties if they violate provisions of a law signed Wednesday by Governor John Carney at the Carousel Park dog park in Pike Creek.

Dogs can now be tethered outside for no longer than two hours when the owner is home, or nine consecutive hours in a 24-hour period if the property is not occupied.

"Dogs require exercise, care and plenty of love and attention. Keeping an animal tied up for what previously was allowed - up to 18 hours a day unsupervised - you're not able to give as much of that care and attention," Hannah Jones of the Delaware Humane Association said.

Under Senate Bill 139, dogs may be kept unaccompanied outdoors for as little as 15 minutes when weather warnings are in effect for extreme temperatures. An outdoor shelter for a dog must be raised off the ground, must be resistant to moisture and wind, and must be equipped with a flap over the entrance between November 1st and March 31st when the temperature falls to 35 degrees. The dog house floor could not be made exclusively of wire.

As for the leash requirement, the law requires dogs to be kept on a leash unless they are on the owner's property, on other private property with the owner's permission, or at a dog park. Some working dog exemptions are contained in the law.

"It's for the safety of everyone," Brandywine Valley SPCA's Linda Torelli said.

According to State Senator Jack Walsh (D- Stanton), the bill came about with input from the Brandywine Valley SPCA, the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare and stakeholders.

Civil penalties start at $100, with escalating fines for subsequent violations.

"That's what this bill is about, to protect the animal itself and the owner from not doing the right thing as far as protecting their animals," Walsh said.

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.