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Animal Advocates

Pennsylvania Law Makes Leaving Cats Out in the Cold a Felony

It’s a shame that lawmakers must step in and take measures to protect pets from their own owners, but that’s exactly what a new Pennsylvania law will do during harsh winter weather.

Signed into law last June, Pennsylvania House Bill 1238, better known as Libre’s Law, provides protection for Pennsylvania’s pets against cruelty and abuse.

As part of that law, even first time offenders could face felony charges for mistreating or neglecting pets – and that includes cruelly subjecting them to harsh winter weather.

“Don’t leave them outside,” said Mercer County Humane Officer Paul Tobin. “The new law is pretty clear. Anything under 32 degrees, anything over 90 degrees, your pets are not allowed outside for more than 30 minutes.”

Under the law, if outside temperatures dip below freezing, 32-degrees Fahrenheit, pets cannot be left unattended outside for more than 30 minutes. Many people think this just applies to dogs – but cats are also protected under the law!

Pet owners found guilty can now face felony animal cruelty charges and punishment including up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Tougher animal protection laws in the state are intended to send a clear message to pet owners that cruelty will not be tolerated in the state. Animal welfare organizations state-wide encourage anyone that sees or suspects an animal being neglected or abused to call 911 and report the abuse immediately.

With record-breaking low temperatures already reaching many parts of the country, would you support a similar law in your own state? Weigh in with a comment below!

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. shirley napora

    Nov 14, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    that law should be everywhere.i am in alberta canada, and it is reaall cold here.

  2. Lisa

    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Yes! We need one in nh. We have a neighbor who has 3 cats and never home. And I’m the one who feeds them. Animal control couldn’t do cat! I WAS shocked! I hate this

    • Susan Nazzaro

      Nov 16, 2017 at 8:02 am

      You can build feral cat shelters for your neighbor ‘s cats. The they will be safe and warm.
      Look on YouTube to learn how to make one, they are easy. Good luck.

      • Lee Fletcher

        Mar 8, 2019 at 4:57 pm

        these shelters are better than NOTHING…but still offer little relief when temps dip below freezing…or the winds are high. It it wouldn’t be warm enough for your child it won’t be warm enough for a pet either

        • jim morrison

          Mar 11, 2019 at 10:34 am

          how can you compare a child to an animal that has fur? what about animals that live outside, like foxes, wolves, bears, etc…you really can’t compare a human to an animal…but if they are in your care, you should care enough not to let them out in that weather..

  3. Shelley

    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Every state needs this law. Here in AZ idiots leave them out in well over 100 weather. Days it gets 117 . They still leave dogs and cats outside.

  4. LaQuetta

    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    How does this law affect those of us who build shelters and leave food out for the ferals and strays?

    • Lee Fletcher

      Mar 8, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      I would imagine they’re two different things. You’re not neglecting an animal, rather trying to provide food and shelter for it. I’m sure the law is aimed at negligent pet owners. I have always provided food and shelter for feral and stray cats…I’m in Ontario…this law should be universal !!

  5. Diane

    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    This is GREAT!!! Needs to be nationwide. Luv ya, PA!

  6. Catblogger

    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    I’m wondering, too, if there’s some kind of exemption for feral cats who cannot live inside. Seems if they really wanted to do something about cruelty, they’d ban declawing.

    • Debbie

      Mar 5, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      I agree declawing is terrible

    • Deb

      Mar 6, 2019 at 11:21 pm

      Declawing needs to be banned nationwide. Other countries have done it. It is nothing short of animal abuse!
      I would guess that ferals woud be exempt, but shelter should be available for the feral cats that people are caring for.

  7. Will

    Nov 15, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Outstanding attempt to do the right thing for our furry 4Leggers, but calling 911, for a non-emergency, when our EMS and law enforcement services are already spent to the limit? How about we as society contribute more to a one on one solution, save the animal from harm and video the process for 21 minutes, then contact a NON-emergency number and save 911 for medical, house fires, and criminal acts?

  8. Melanie

    Nov 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY WOULD SUPPORT IT ANYWHERE

  9. Sherry Bailey

    Nov 15, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    We really need that law in Arizona where the summers are so hot, and the winters can be so cold!!

  10. Carmel

    Nov 15, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    This article is incorrect.

  11. Linda

    Nov 16, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Why do you think this is incorrect Carmel?

    • Patrick Hanna

      Nov 16, 2017 at 10:43 am

      It is incorrect because the law is about tethering, or tying your animals outside when temperatures are above 90 or below 32.

      My cats regularly enjoy temperatures above 90 degrees and spend well over 20 minutes in that. They are also free to enter and leave the house when they please. I have a large fenced in yard that they can’t leave. According to this article, I would be violating the law by not making them come inside when it is hot. That is completely untrue.

      The law says that you aren’t allowed to tether your dog outside in extreme temperatures for longer than 30 minutes. It doesn’t say anything about cats because people don’t tether their cats. You are also permitted to let your animals live outside as long as you provide them adequate food, water, and shelter.

      • Kitkat

        Mar 7, 2019 at 11:01 pm

        32 degrees isn’t extreme weather

      • Joan Bernstein

        Mar 10, 2019 at 6:08 pm

        Please post this on FB for the public.

  12. Deb

    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:44 am

    This would be great if pertaining to dogs that are tied to a box outside, but for cats? Cats have a mind of their own. 😉 I have a stray that I adopted 3 yrs ago and he simply LOVES playing out in the snow and rain! If you refuse to allow him to go outside in the cold, he will show you how to get his way by clawing up my tile by the door or spraying. Guess who wins the battle! Yep! My kitty cat does! Again, I can see if there is a neglect/abuse case, but if an animal that is cared for wants outside in the weather, then so be it.

  13. lisa

    Nov 16, 2017 at 11:17 am

    how would this apply to us that take care of feral cat colonies.i feed and give shelter but there is no way of catching them to bring indoorsand they would rip things to shreds if brought indoors

  14. Robin

    Nov 16, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    This would be a silly law. It depends on the breed, the size and the coat. I live in Alaska. A sled dog is pretty much like a wolf and wolves are perfectly happy outdoors at -30 and colder. You should see how ecstatic the sled dogs are when the first snow comes! A good owner provides a house with fresh hay but often you see the dogs preferring to sit outside at minus zero degrees happily prancing and excitedly watching for the musher to get the harnesses out.

    • Susan Patrie

      Dec 8, 2017 at 2:45 am

      Well, this is Pennsylvania, so….. there’s that.

  15. Chris

    Nov 16, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Yeah, the article is wrong according to the text of the law: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=1238&pn=1565
    Section 5536. This only applies to dogs.

  16. Beth ferguson

    Nov 17, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Hopefully Delaware is next .& every other cold state!

  17. Belinda Stanton

    Nov 18, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I am from Pennsylvania and I am glad Harrisburg stepped up to implement this law.

  18. Belinda Stanton

    Nov 18, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I am from Pennsylvania, and I am glad Harrisburg stepped up to implement this law.

  19. Melanie Ross

    Nov 18, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    I live in Australia and hot or cold pet ownership is just common sense do unto your pets as u would yourself if u have to make this the law then people shouldn’t have pets oh gee come on people

  20. Anonymous

    Nov 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Sorry, I have a farm and have Barn cats. They have cat boxes in the barn to sleep in. Not sure how this law is going to work for people like us.

  21. Keith H

    Nov 19, 2017 at 5:27 pm

  22. Pingback: Las Vegas Repeals Ban on Retail Pet Store Kitten and Puppy Sales

  23. FFelicia

    Nov 23, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    What is going on with the world today it sense like no one cares about their animals anymore and this making me hate people more and more everydaDo pennsylvania even think about the animals webeing but I am happy that we can now call 911 to see if we in see any animal abuse. This is making me want to cry thinking about those poor cats and dogs forced to go outside in the very cold weather . This is also making me very sick that humans will do something like this . I was right from the start humans are nothing but selfish and cruel creatures that god made by mistake and they are not meant to be trusted . Why is everyone treating animals like they are nothing that is why I am never nice to an human becuase they are not meant to be on this earth. and I hope the perosn that came up with this idea was drunk and take to many drugs because this is sick.

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    Feb 21, 2018 at 6:47 pm

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  25. B Grove

    Mar 5, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Tell me what I can do about feral cats that are outside,not mine they are all fixed,who will take them? They do have shelter to keep them warm,they need homes.

  26. Sally Arrich

    Mar 6, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    I am currently taking care of 7 abandonded kittens . Renter left in the Fall, … no help from Animal Shelter or Animal Control. Soon, they will be breeding. All are Ferrell… What am I to do???? feel so bad for these babies. is there anyone I can contact. SHE has been reported… name and contact number. but…County won’t make her responsible.

    • Lynn

      Mar 6, 2019 at 8:05 pm

      Get them spayed and neutered. There are many places that do it for free or little cost. Inbreeding is bad. And unfixed animals are highly likely to get cancer, be hit by cars, fight, and run off. They live an average of 3 to 4 years. Get them fixed asap!

  27. Steven andrews

    Mar 6, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    Traveling thru wife wound up in the hospital. The first said cat could come in then said no making us keep him outside. I informed them of yhis law ( traveling thru we have no place for him other than with us) they don’t seem to care.
    Will be calling attorney general in the morning and will definately sue if anything happens to our cat.

  28. Georgia

    Mar 7, 2019 at 10:24 am

    It’s good I realized this article was straight up lying about how “straightforward” the law is, because I was about to go put my healthy, happy, indoor/outdoor cats to sleep so I wouldn’t risk a felony charge if they slip out to sleep on the back porch for the afternoon on a sunny 30° Day.
    My options, according to this article would be to lock them in crates in the basement until they die, or put them to sleep to save them from the misery. because they were rescued from the outdoors and they would NEVER stay in without escaping.
    I’d never risk 7 years in prison and 15,000 grand for cats I didn’t even intend to adopt but ended up getting fuxed and letting in my house when they wish.

    Go ahead and Keep spreading lies and deterring good people from ever saving stray cats again. Or edit the article to point out that this law is for pets that are TETHERED outside for over 30 minutes without a shelter.

  29. Amy shenk

    Mar 7, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    How does the Pennsylvania law affect outdoor cats that have shelter? We have been taking care of one for months, brought him in when the temperature what to zero and below,had him in the basement, but he likes being outside.really need to find him a great home, he was someone’s cat that I believe that they moved out of the neighborhood and he has been on his own, the cat is fixed and my cat doesn’t like him. I live in dormant, pa

  30. DelphiProgrammer

    Mar 9, 2019 at 8:32 am

    I have nothing against this law in particular. My problem is with law in general. We already have a law crazy country, now they want to make you a felon if you leave your pet outside for 45-minutes. Every time you turn around this or that or the other thing has been defined “a felony” and can land someone in prison for 7 years or more, ruining their life, costing them their job and possibly resulting in children growing up fatherless or motherless. Is a pet being left outside on a 30-degree day really worth all that? If you people are fine with living in a police state, then go ahead and have your legislator pass a new felony law every time you have a pet peeve. What goes around comes around, and one day someone else will have a problem with something YOU DO, and will pass a felony law that could land YOU in prison, cost you hour house, your job, your family, etc.

  31. Jacque

    Mar 9, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Initially I liked this, but if your cat goes in and out of the house he decides on his own. In the long run this may actually hurt cats as less people will want the responsibility.

    • Sharon Crossman

      Mar 21, 2019 at 5:32 pm

      Use straw. Hay soaks up moisture, making it cold and uncomfortable for cats—and has the potential to get moldy.
      Heated cat shelters are $60.

  32. Yvonne Bechtold

    Mar 9, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    Proud to live in Omaha, NE, where our humane societies got overstocked with styrofoam coolers that had been cut following instructions to create winter shelter for feral cats, where my lazy next door neighbor had to pay a $300 fine for keeping his short-hair male house dog outside for 20 minutes in bitterly cold weather. It was a great dog, once it had done its’ duty, it would bark at the back door. And where a humane society will house dogs whose owners have been evicted, happens to folks who find themselves suddenly unemployed, free of charge until the owners have gotten back on their feet. (No rags in those styrofoam kitty shelters, but newspapers insulate, hay is best. I also put a small dish of dry cat food in there).

  33. Debra Sopp

    Mar 10, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I definitely would support this.I am in New Hampshire but this should be law in every state in the nation.

  34. Kaci

    Mar 10, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Sigh…. More communist laws….

  35. Debra L Kempthorne

    Mar 11, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Hope this law spills over into Ohio. There are two cats in my neighborhood that are outside all the time. In December I cut a cat-size hole in a large plastic bin and put it between my garage and some bushes with a blanket inside. I don’t know if the cats found it because I cannot see it from the house but it was/is there if they need it.

  36. Melissa A Warner

    Mar 13, 2019 at 10:48 am

    I think it should be the LAW in ALL STATES
    Where we live there are a TON of cats left outside in the brutal winter to fend for themselves
    We have taken to feeding them all year round bc their owners don’t want the responsibility.. One cat we captured and took to the SPCA last year had to be put down bc he was so sick and he had injuries to his face and ears and another cat we took to the SPCA was abandoned by his previous owners( they moved to Oklahoma and left him behind with a bowl of Green Beans for him ) around the same time and he was able to be adopted out

  37. Mia Lancaster

    Mar 17, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Absolutely along with summary execution of any person caught torturing any animal. All forms of cruelty need to be eradicated in the U.S. and abroad. Paw tip amputation (euphemistically called “declawing”) also is banned in many countries, but unfortunately, not yet in the U.S.

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