Home » Ask the County Law Librarian – When Must Dogs Be Brought Inside?

Ask the County Law Librarian – When Must Dogs Be Brought Inside?

Q. Is it illegal to leave a dog outside when it is below a certain temperature? Cinthia

A. Hi Cinthia,

There is no specific temperature requirement for bringing a dog indoors.

However, there are laws that may apply in this situation.

California Penal Code 597(b) states that “every person who … fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather…is, for each offense, guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).”  Subdivision (d) provides for either felony or misdemeanor charges, and/or a $20,000 fine.

If this is in the City of Sacramento, the City Code may also apply. Sacramento City Code section 9.44.250 makes it “unlawful for the owner of any animal to knowingly permit or allow such animal to go without proper food, water, care, shelter, or medical or veterinary attention.” Section 9.44.270 requires animal care services staff to report evidence of mistreatment to the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  Other cities and counties may have similar codes.

If you are concerned about a neighbor’s animals, you may want to contact the Sacramento Animal Care Services or equivalent in your city or county.

If you’re wondering when to bring your own dog in, WebMD’s pet section says the following:

For a pooch that spends a lot of time outside, you’ll need to take the same steps to protect your dog in cold weather as those taken for an outdoor-only cat, including:

  • Making sure your dog has warm, dry, draft-free, covered shelter, preferably in a garage, shed, or beneath a carport or porch awning.

  • Warming that shelter with bedding you check daily — wet bedding can be fatal to a pet. Look into purchasing electric heating products specifically made for a dog’s use.

  • Being sure that fresh, unfrozen water is available to your dog every day. You can find inexpensive warmers to keep your pet’s water from freezing.

  • Providing your dog plenty of food; pets need even more calories in the winter to help them keep warm.

Always bring your dog inside when the temperatures turn particularly harsh, the pros say. "If you wouldn’t want to be out in those conditions in just your clothes and a coat for too long, your pet won’t want to be either," pet owner and Utah social worker Sherri G. says.

I hope this helps!

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian

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