RI bill aimed at stopping animal mistreatment signed into law

(Submitted photo)

Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed a bill aimed at stopping animal mistreatment.

The bill was inspired by a dog breeder in Warwick who was criticized for tethering pit bull-type dogs outside in order to acclimate them to cold temperatures.

"You have to keep the dogs in the cold somewhat so that they can get used to it,” the dog's caretaker, Clifford Dennis, told NBC 10 News in December 2017. “Six to eight hours is usually what they stay before we put them into the trailer with the wood stove."

There was an exemption for hunting dogs under the old law, but the new law removes that exemption. Rep. Patricia Serpa, a Democrat who represents District 27, was one of the sponsors of the bill.

"For too long, those animals near Kent Hospital had been out in the cold, out on a day like this, tethered by a chain, with what I call a substandard dog house," Serpa said.

It's a move the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was glad to see.

"He was tethering his dogs 24 hours a day, but he claimed an exemption under the hunting statute which is no longer a blanket exemption," said Joe Warzycha of the RISPCA.

The dogs were ordered to be removed from the property in April after the city found several zoning ordinances had been violated.

The new law also sets stricter guidelines for how and when dogs can be tethered.

"Now, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a dog cannot be tethered outside for more than 15 minutes,” Warzycha said. “(That) makes enforceability much easier for us."

An earlier version of the bill prevented animals from being kept outside for more than 15 minutes whenever there's a weather advisory or warning issued, but that clause was removed by state senators.

"That's the one area where we would have liked to have seen things a little bit different," Warzycha said.

The law would allow for certain dogs, including hunting dogs, to be tethered outside, but an animal control officer would need to authorize that. The authorization would need to be renewed annually.

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