New Brunswickers who leave their dogs tethered outside overnight could face stiff penalties under new regulations slated to take effect on Dec. 1.
Fines will range from $500 to $200,000 and offenders could be sentenced to up to 18 months in jail.
However, in many cases, people will receive warnings before any charge is laid, said a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Local Government.
Department officials and New Brunswick SPCA representatives are meeting on Thursday to discuss educating the public about the upcoming restrictions on dog tethering.
Under the new rules, dog owners will no longer be able to leave their dogs tied outside between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than 30 minutes, unless the person is outdoors and within 25 metres of the dog.
The regulatory changes come following a 28-day public consultation period and just months after public outrage over a Kent County dog being tethered to its snowed-in doghouse while its owner was away.
"No other province in Canada has time-based tethering restrictions. So for us to have one, it's terrific. It puts us ahead of the pack," said Hilary Howes, executive director of the New Brunswick SPCA.
Nova Scotia has introduced similar rules which may take effect this fall.
The SPCA worked with the New Brunswick government to develop the new rules. The animal welfare organization will also be involved in enforcement.
Details about whether any additional funding will provided for enforcement still have to be worked out, said Howes.
He expects that will also be discussed at Thursday's meeting.
Howes says tethering dogs for hours at night is dangerous because they're not being watched. They are at risk of being attacked by other animals, and can get tangled and injured in their chain, he said.
Some tethering is acceptable, if it's done correctly, said Howes.
"With the proper type of chain, with swivels on the ends of it. With the dog having a shelter where the dog can get out of the sunlight, for example, on a hot day like today. With proper access to food water and those sorts of things," he said.
The government says a provincial Standards of Care document is currently being developed in consultation with stakeholders to address issues of proper dog care, housing, socialization, and other issues.
Further changes will be brought forward for government consideration in early 2015.