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Friday, June 21, 2019

The Delaware General Assembly continues to quickly move a bill that would regulate when dogs are permitted to be outdoors.  It has now passed the Senate and will likely be considered soon by the House Health and Human Services Committee.

As currently written, Senate Bill 139 establishes arbitrary standards that could punish responsible dog owners whose dogs are temporarily outside – even if it is done in a humane manner.

 AKC believes current Delaware law, which does not allow a dog to be left outdoors when the dog cannot tolerate the temperature or the temperature would cause stress or discomfort, is a more effective approach to protecting dogs.

As written, Senate Bill 139 includes language that would prohibit dogs from being outside for 15 minutes if there is a weather advisory, if the dog is unattended and not within sight of the owner – even if the dog is in the owner’s yard. The AKC strongly agrees that no dog should ever be left in dangerous weather where their health and safety could be at risk.  However, our concern is that this may cause many unintended problems for responsible dog owners who may need to temporarily and humanely let their dogs outside in these conditions (for example, if the dog happens into any part of the yard where the owner cannot physically see the dog, or if there is a winter advisory and an arctic breed that thrives in colder conditions is outside for more than 15 minutes).

The only exemptions are for dogs actively engaged in the protection of livestock and poultry, or dogs engaged “in the protection of farm property.”

Additionally, while the bill provides guidelines for an appropriate outdoor shelter, it also says that a dog may not be outside for more than 15 minutes in a weather advisory or a temperature that would cause stress or discomfort, even if the dog has access to a doghouse or similar shelter.  AKC is asking that this be clarified.

Other provisions in the bill include prohibiting dogs being off-leash outdoors at any time unless they are on private property (with permission from the owner), in a vehicle, or in a designated off-leash dog park.  Dogs considered “working dogs” (defined as “not merely pets but that learn and perform tasks to assist their human companions”), including service dogs, dogs trained to hunt, and search and rescue dog are also exempted.

What You Can Do:

This bill continues to move quickly.  Those who wish to comment on Senate Bill 139 are encouraged to contact the House Health and Human Services Committee today:

David Bentz, Chair –

Raymond Seigfried, Vice-Chair –

Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha –

Kendra Johnson –

Paul S. Baumbach –

Debra Hefferman –

Melissa Minor-Brown –

Ruth Briggs King –

Kevin S. Hensley –

Charles S. Postles, Jr. –

Bryan W. Shupe –

Michael F. Smith –

For more information on these bills or other legislation pending in Delaware, contact AKC Government Relations at