Did you know it's against the law to leave your dog outside for an extended period when it's below freezing? Here's what to do if you see it happening.

With cold temperatures and a negative wind chill, pets cannot be left outside for an extended period. Dogs left out in extreme temperatures, especially without food, fresh water and shelter are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite and even death. CNY legislation states:

No dog should be left outside tethered and exposed to the weather for prolonged periods when the temperature falls below the freezing point of water. With temperatures below the freezing point, a dog may experience harm and damage to its skin causing pain.

Similarly, dogs left outside, tethered and exposed for long periods when the temperature rises to greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit are believed to likely experience heat stroke or other bodily harm. No person who owns or has custody or control of a dog shall knowingly leave such dog tethered outdoors for no longer than a period of two continuous hours during extreme weather conditions... Actual harm or injury need not be shown to prove a violation and tickets will be issued.

This is what you should do if you see pets left outside in extreme temperatures as per Chief Investigator William Pulaski for the CNYSPCA Cruelty Division in Syracuse.

If you see dogs left out in the cold, you can report this to the CNY SPCA Animal Cruelty Investigations Division at 315-454-3469 Emergency's and nights and weekends call 911. Animal neglect is a crime under the New York State Agriculture & Markets Law.

The punishment for leaving pets outside in extreme temperatures varies from a Violation to a Misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. New York State only has a shelter Law for dogs.

Oneida County doesn't have a law like Syracuse, but the City of Utica has the same law in Syracuse (CNY legislation posted above). The problem with that law is that dogs have to be left out consecutively for two hours. To enforce the law one of our investigators or a police officer has to observe the dog outside for the full two hour period. That makes it hard to enforce due to the volume of calls agencies receive in cold weather.

Extreme temperatures can vary based on breed or an animals condition (but are normally 32 degrees or above 90 degrees).

The shelter law for dogs can be found on the New York State Agriculture & Markets web site. Article 26 section 353 and states:

353-a. Aggravated cruelty to animals. 1. A person is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when, with no justifiable purpose, he or she intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty. For purposes of this section, "aggravated cruelty" shall mean conduct which: (i) is intended to cause extreme physical pain, or (ii) is done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner...Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony. A defendant convicted of this offense shall be sentenced pursuant to paragraph (b) of subdivision one of section 55.10 of the penal law provided, however, that any term of imprisonment imposed for violation of this section shall be a definite sentence, which may not exceed two years.

If you don't neglect your pets, then the section added to the Utica City Code entitled Protection of Dogs doesn't pertain to you.