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Owners of pets left outside can face jail time

Owners of pets left outside can face jail time

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region is responding to dozens of calls from people concerned that pets are left outside in below-freezing temperatures.

Jamie Norris, assistant director of Animal Law Enforcement for the Humane Society, told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that most of the time the reports are false alarms.  Generally, people let their pets outside for a few minutes and a neighbor becomes concerned after hearing barking.  But in some cases, law enforcement suspects neglect and can issue a citation.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 tagged along with a law enforcement officer Thursday and arrived at a home where animal neglect was suspected.  Cpl. Vicki Cheney found a dog chained to a tree in the home's front yard. It had no access to water or shelter and was whimpering and eating the snow around it.

"The dog is all around snow in the yard," Cheney said.  "There's no way for him to get out of the elements."

The owners were issued a citation for animal cruelty.  It was the second citation Cheney issued on Thursday.

"They can face $500 to $1,000 in fines or more.  They can actually get jail time," Cheney said.  The owners will have the opportunity to fight the claim in court.

There is no law that stipulates how long a pet can be left outside.  It just has to have protection from the elements and access to water, Cheney explained.  Each dog's tolerance for the cold varies depending on its size, breed, age and health.

The Humane Society asks that pet owners use good judgement when taking their pets outside.  Neighbors are asked to be watchful, but understand that just because a dog is outside, it does not necessarily constitute neglect.  Norris recommends monitoring the situation then calling the Humane Society if a pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak or starts looking for warm places to burrow.

"People are obviously concerned for dogs," said Norris.  "Obviously we care and we want to be there for the ones who truly need it."

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