With the temperature in the teens for the next few days, we’re sending out a reminder about shelter requirements for companion animals pursuant to state code!
Cleveland enacted new animal neglect ordinances in December 2014, which were then enacted by several other localities. Those ordinances provide bright-line rules about what qualifies as appropriate shelter and higher penalties for violations. For cities that have not enacted stricter sheltering guidelines, state code governs.
Ohio Revised Code § 959.131(D)(3) provides that no person who is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal shall negligently do the following:
“impound or confine the companion animal without affording it. during the impoundment or confinement, with access to shelter from heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result of or due to the lack of adequate shelter.”
There is qualifying language to the shelter requirement — “if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result of or due to the lack of adequate shelter.”
This is a *proactive* statute that can be used in situations where the companion animal is provided with shelter, but that shelter is inadequate considering the extreme temperatures and due to that lack or inadequacy of shelter, the animal could reasonably be expected to suffer. Evidence of suffering is not a necessary element of this crime. The statute provides humane agents (or other law enforcement) with the proactive ability to seize an animal so that the animal does not have to suffer.
Some considerations for humane agents include the adequacy of the shelter in current winter conditions, any visible signs of suffering (such as “flipper walking” or shivering), the breed of dog or type of animal, and how long the animal has been confined outside.
Since R.C. § 959.131(D)(3) defines cruelty as the negligent confinement of a companion animal to a shelter in a manner in which it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer, and R.C. § 959.132 provides the authority for a humane agent to take possession of an animal cruelly treated, those two statutes authorize a humane officer to rescue animals from such conditions.
Moreover, some municipalities have ordinances prohibiting chaining or tethering that apply in these circumstances.
Of course, every shelter situation is different and law enforcement should consult with legal counsel and/or veterinary staff as needed.