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Bill to protect pets from tethering in extreme weather passes Virginia Senate

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Dog owners who leave their pets tied up outside overnight or during extreme weather conditions may soon face the possibility of punishment.  The Virginia Senate passed SB 872 Wednesday, which bans tethering pets outdoors in conditions that animal advocacy groups say are potentially dangerous.

The bill carves out exemptions for farm and hunting dogs.  A previous version of the bill would have prohibited owners from leaving their dogs tied up outside when the someone was not home, but that language was removed after concerns were raised.

Virginia law already requires dog owners to have "adequate shelter" to protect animals from the cold and heat, and SB 872 would extend that law.

Will Lowery works with the pit bull advocacy group Gracie's Guardians.  During their volunteer trips out into Richmond metro, Lowery says it is a common occurrence to see dogs tied up outside during dangerously cold or hot temperatures.

"No matter what we're doing, if a dog is out on a chain every minute of every day, that dog is out there feeling the cold, so sometimes you can't shake what you saw," Lowery said.  "That dog is out there 24-7, and its got emotion. It feels pain, and it suffers. I think there needs to be a growing recognition that this is more than a piece of property."

SB 872 heads over to the House of Delegates, where a similar piece of legislation, HB 646, was passed by indefinitely by a subcommittee.  Sponsors and advocates said they hope changes made to the Senate bill of hunting and farming animals and removing the "at home" provision will likely increase the bill's chances in the House.

Lowery said working to the change the law is the right step, but he and others will continue to work to educate dog owners of all backgrounds about keeping their animals safe.

"The one thing we always try to push is to not be judgmental, but to try and help people and try to help that dog," Lowery said.

The tethering bill passed the Senate 33-7.