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Proposed law to punish Onondaga County residents for leaving pets in the cold goes back to committee

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County lawmakers debate a proposed law that would punish pet owners for leaving their pets outside in the cold

Onondaga County lawmakers will reconsider a proposed law that would punish people who leave their pets outside in sub-freezing weather conditions for a certain amount of time. 

The proposed legislation is dubbed “Adrian’s Law,” named after a dog that froze to death outside a house in the city of Syracuse earlier this winter. It proposes fines or jail time for pet owners who leave animals outside for more than 30 minutes when the temperature is 32 degrees or below; a parameter that is reasonable according to Rebecca Thompson, animal cruelty investigator for the Syracuse Police Department.

"It’s that temperature and time frame is when you start to notice they’re lifting their paws, they’re shaking, they’re uncomfortable, it’s visible,” Thompson said.

But these kinds of restrictions made some Onondaga County residents uncomfortable. Republican Kevin Holmquist said he has gotten more calls on this issue than any other recently, mostly from dog owners who keep their animals outside.

“Each person I talk to talked about the great lengths they go to protect their dogs. They have heated dog houses, heated dog bowls.  The dogs, as they described to me, literally hate going inside.”

Thompson said this legislation isn’t aimed at those pet owners.

“Am I going to arrest someone who has a working dog, out there on the farm, and their dog is fine? Absolutely not. That’s a little bit far reaching,” she said. “This is for the dog that’s tethered, it’s standing there, and it’s freezing, whether it’s a husky or a pit bull.”

So lawmakers decided to send the legislation back to committee, something Democrat Chris Ryan, who sponsored the bill, says could result in some changes.  But it’s still a law he wants to see on the books.

“I’m willing to see what they have to say. And I’ll hear what they have to say. But I think as written it’s a good law.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.