Residents Can Face Fines, Jail for Leaving Pets Outside

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CLEVELAND -- Leaving a pet tied up outside in brutally cold weather isn’t just inhumane; it’s also illegal in some cities.

Monday, as arctic air rushed into Northeast Ohio, animal control officers began responding to reports of dogs left outside in the cold without proper protection.

“They’re [calls] all consistent of there being a dog left outside, either tied up or in the backyard with no shelter,” said Cleveland Chief Animal Control Officer John Baird.

Baird said it’s a good time to remind people of a “tethering” ordinance in Cleveland that prohibits pets from being left outside and restrained in severe weather.

According to Baird, Municipal Code 603.092 states that, “You can’t tie your dog outside when you’re not at home or there’s a National Weather Advisory, which is what we’re experiencing.”

A tether refers to any “rope, chain, cord, dog run, pulley or similar restraint” that holds an animal in place.

Baird says most animals just can’t survive the current subzero temperatures and punishing wind chills.

Far too often, dogs and cats are found frozen to death.

“We find them, they’re all hunched up in a corner or trying to get under a car and that’s where they’ve unfortunately died,” said Baird.

If an animal freezes to death, Baird says the owner or caretaker will most likely be charged with Animal Cruelty.

According to Ohio’s Revised Code, Animal Cruelty is a misdemeanor of the first degree on a first offense and a felony of the fifth degree on each subsequent offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.

The first violation of Cleveland’s tethering ordinance is a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not more than $150.  It’s a 4th degree misdemeanor on the second offense, punishable by not more than a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.

The third offense and any subsequent offenses are 1st degree misdemeanors, punishable by not more than a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

Animal control officers will be on call 24/7 and are prepared to respond to any reports of animals left outside in the cold unprotected.  Chief Baird recommends people report the abuse to their local police department or by calling their local Animal Control officers.

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