Every year, people in animal welfare and law enforcement will get calls in the colder winter regions about animals being left outside.
It’s somewhat of a grey area for law enforcement when it comes to protecting animals from abuse and neglect.
“Right now the laws that govern animals that live outside is kind of vague and it’s up for interpretation what constitutes adequate shelter,” says Molly Tamulevich, Michigan State Director for Humane Society of the United States. “That means you could have a bunch of different definitions of what is adequate shelter and there’s really no common standard.”
Michigan House Bill 4784 aims to set the standards of care, outlining what is not considered to be adequate shelter.
“In the case of the puppy mill industry in Michigan, which is honestly one of the biggest beneficiaries of our current laws’ vagueness, these animals are living on wire floor that allows the wind to come up and does not protect them at all,” says Tamulevich. “By saying you have to have a floor, a shelter can’t be made of cardboard, you can’t be keeping your dog under a vehicle, you can’t keep them in a metal or plastic barrel all year round unless that has been modified to provide insulation.”
Other standards of safe shelter is the material of the shelter being used and the measure of the animals internal temperature. This can vary by the size or breed of the dog or if they are healthy versus unhealthy.
Bill 4784 still has yet to pass the State House Judiciary Committee. It was first introduced by the main sponsor, Representative Tommy Brann, District 77.
“In some ways we have a long way to go, but in other ways Michigan is a leader in animal welfare laws and in fact Rep. Brann was the author of a bill years ago that increased penalties for animal cruelty in the state,” says Tamulevich. “The first step is make sure that laws like this are actually getting hearings.”
Tamulevich says every year there are between 15 and 20 laws that are introduced for animal welfare, but they don’t make it through the entire legislative process, stalling on the floor.
“The next step is to ensure that bills like House Bill 4784 are given serious consideration in committee and that they receive a hearing,” says Talumevich. “Lawmakers hear from all of us and know that animal welfare is a serious issue.”