NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee is no stranger to severe weather events and lawmakers want you to think of your four-legged friends during bad weather. They are looking to add to the penalties for a person who knowingly restrains a dog outside during severe weather.
The goal is to keep dogs safe.
“A few months ago, we had a tornado warning where I live and we were all in the bathroom and it was very warm,” said Ellen Mahurian, an animal behaviorist with the Brentwood Veterinary Clinic.
Legislators are working to make sure dog owners are mindful of the harm severe weather poses—beefing up criminal penalties for owners who tie their dogs outside during extreme weather.
“Under present law, it is a class ‘A’ misdemeanor if a dog is left restrained, with a cord, tether, or chain under unfavorable circumstances and suffer physical injury. But, we also know that there does not have to be an apparent physical injury and the animal can still suffer,” said Rep. Sabi ‘Doc’ Kumar (R-Springfield).
House Bill 2860 would create a class ‘C’ misdemeanor offense for a person to knowingly restrain a dog with a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device while a natural or manmade disaster is imminent or occurring.
“[Dogs] need to be protected in your home just like any other living thing,” Mahurian said. “If they’re outside and they’re by themselves, they’re feeling all that stress with no comfort and no escape.”
As an animal behaviorist, Mahurian knows firsthand the impact bad weather can have on dogs.
“If pets are tied up in yards, and there’s anything else going on, like flooding, they could drown, they could choke themselves trying to get away, same with a tornado, obviously if you’re outside during a tornado there’s so many health risks with flying objects and such,” she said.
She recommends that you include your pets in all of your weather preparedness plans. “Just like your safety plan for the humans in your household, if you’ve got a windowless lower floor area where you’re going to be staying, the pet should go there too.”
If you’re unable to bring your pets inside, experts recommend some sort of shelter for your pet—preferably somewhere dry like a garage or wooden doghouse with warm hay or blankets.