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The Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, on House Bill 406, which seeks to define extreme weather conditions and places limitations on tethering in such conditions.

Existing Maryland law already prohibits a dog from being tethered unattended outside in unsafe conditions.  HB 406 attempts to clarify what an unsafe “extreme weather condition” is, and bans tethering for more than 30 minutes without access to “suitable shelter”. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is concerned that the good intentions of this bill may cause many unintended problems for responsible dog owners, and encourages those who reside or participate in dog events in Maryland to contact the Committee members today and express their concerns.

House Bill 406 Summary: 

  • Defines “extreme weather conditions” to mean temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or during an active weather warning issued by the National Weather Service.
  • Defines a “suitable shelter” as a structure that (1) is properly ventilated; (2) has a solid floor that is raised off the ground at least two inches; (3) has a weatherproof roof; (4) has four walls, one of which contains a doorway; (5) has insulation or heating sufficient to allow a dog to maintain its normal body temperature; and (6) is suitable for the species, age, condition, size, and type of dog.

It further states that the definition a “suitable shelter” does not include (1) a crawl space that is under a building or part of a building; (2) the space under a vehicle; (3) a floor consisting of wire or chain link; or (4) a structure made from cardboard or other materials that are easily degraded by the elements.

AKC’s Concerns and Recommendation:

The arbitrary temperature limits established by HB 406 does not reflect that certain breeds thrive outside in the proscribed temperatures.  The bill also fails to consider that some breeds require a more moderate climate, and even 30 minutes in temperatures permitted under this proposal could jeopardize some dogs’ health.  AKC is also concerned that these arbitrary restrictions could exclude dogs from dog shows, field trials, rally, agility, and other activities engaged in by responsible dog owners.  If the bill’s intent is to protect those more moderate dogs, AKC recommends HB 406 be amended to provide that, “during any period in which a hazardous weather advisory or warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the local area, no dog shall be left in conditions where the health and safety of the dog is at risk.”  We believe such wording would consider the needs of various breeds, ages, and the general health of individual dogs.

Moreover, while the definition of “suitable shelter” is reasonable, the language requiring access to continuous suitable shelter raises questions as to its applicability in the training of dogs in the field who are suited to handle extreme conditions based on their breed, age, and general health.  AKC recommends that HB 406 be amended to not only allow an exemption for dogs that are with the owner but also include exemptions for either training or working in conditions that are suitable for the breed, age, and general health of the dog.  Absent such an exemption, dogs that work as service animals and to protect public health and safety would be unable to perform the many important functions they are trained to provide, specifically under adverse conditions, should HB 406 be enacted as currently written.

What You Can Do:
Contact the Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee prior to its hearing on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 1:00pm.  Respectfully request the bill be amended in line with the recommendations above before approving the bill out of committee.  Click here for committee contact information.

AKC Government Relations and Responsible Dog Owners–Maryland will continue to closely monitor this bill and communicate our concerns to the members of the General Assembly.  For more information, contact doglaw@akc.org.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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