Sudbury group says tougher laws needed for owners who leave dogs out in cold

A group called Animal Justice Sudbury wants to see tougher laws governing animal welfare, particularly concerning dogs being left out in frigid winter temperatures.

Protest to be held outside Ontario SPCA facilities at College Boréal today

The group Animal Justice Sudbury wants to see tougher — and clearer — laws for owners who leave their animals out in the harsh winter elements. (CBC)

A group called Animal Justice Sudbury wants to see tougher laws governing animal welfare, particularly when it comes to dogs being left out in frigid winter temperatures.

Natasha Lachance with the group said since the start of winter, members have called in numerous complaints and concerns to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) about dogs out in the cold — and wonders why the OSPCA hasn't removed them. 

Lachance said recently, she became aware of two dogs tied up outside in un-insulated dog houses. 

"They're out there shivering constantly ... right there out in the wind, and subject to attack by predatory animals. They're out there 24-7."

Lachance said her group has offered the owner a free insulated shelter for the dogs, but the offer was refused.

'There are no standards'

There is no law against having an animal tied up outside, said Jennifer Bluhm, deputy chief of the Ontario SPCA.

But, she said outdoor dogs must have insulated shelters. And if the dog is tethered, the chain or rope must allow the dog to move safely and access food and water.

Bluhm said so far this winter, the agency's branches across the province are receiving a high volume of calls from concerned people worried about animals outside without appropriate shelter.

"We see a lot of different shelters that are put in place," she said. "Often, we see shelters that are very well insulated that might not appear so from a distance."

Bluhm said the OSPCA responds to all calls, and if an investigator doesn't think a shelter meets legal standards, action can be taken against owners. 

But, being outside in the cold is not in itself enough to prove that an animal in distress as defined under the Ontario SPCA Act.

"Dogs simply being outside in extreme cold weather, on its face, would not be enough," Bluhm said. "There would have to be other indicators of distress: medical distress, frost bite, other existing injuries, hypothermia."

But Lachance said her group thinks that animal inspectors are quibbling over the Act at the expense of suffering animals, and she wants the laws changed. 

"There are no standards, as of right now, to how long an animal can be tied outside."

"We need to strengthen our laws and have [the OSPCA] push harder ... to protect our chained and tethered dogs outside."

Members of Animal Justice Sudbury will be protesting outside the OSPCA facilies at the entrance of College Boréal in Sudbury this afternoon at 2 p.m.

With files from Angela Gemmill