Legislators decide fate of bill requiring pet owners to provide shelter for animals

Stock image depicts a dog tied up to a chain | Photo by ErimacGroup/iStock/Getty Images Plus; St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Proposed legislation that would have required owners to provide their pets with appropriate shelter during harsh weather failed to pass in the Utah 2018 Legislature.

Animal welfare amendments, designated as SB 91 1st Substitute, was the subject of much debate before it narrowly passed in the Senate Monday night. The bill was never brought to vote in the House in the waning days of the Legislature, which ended Thursday night.

The bill was originally drafted on behalf of animal control officers who were seeking a single definition of what the state means by shelter, rather than relying on varying definitions between different jurisdictions.

“We really don’t describe what we mean by adequate shelter in the current law,” bill sponsor Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-District 3 | Profile photo, Utah Senate, St. George News

In addition to clarifying what an appropriate shelter looks like, the bill would also make it a crime to leave an animal tethered or unattended in a manner that prevents it from reaching shelter when exposed to hail, snow or severe weather.

The final language of the bill, which would not have applied to wildlife or farm animals, included specific rules for shelters intended for dogs.

The bill defined appropriate shelter as one that prevents moisture, has a solid surface with coverage on all sides, contains bedding or an artificial heat source and is clean and ventilated.

The bill enjoyed initial support from the Humane Society of Utah and animal control personnel but required several amendments as it made its way through the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.

The Utah Farm Bureau said it opposed the bill, as it could criminalize owners of working animals, such as sheep dogs, that may have to work in periods of inclement weather.

As a result, the bill was amended to only include Salt Lake County, exempting rural counties where working animals are more prevalent.

The bill also indicated what can’t be considered adequate shelter, such as a cardboard box, building crawlspace, the space under a vehicle or a carrier or crate designed for temporary transport or temporary housing.

Stock image | Photo by Daisy-Daisy, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Excluding temporary housing drew criticism from some senators who said it would criminalize someone using a carrier as shelter on a camping or hunting trip.

“If it excludes things like travel carriers, then any time you are away from your home with your animal, you are potentially in violation of this section,” Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said.

The Utah Houndsmen Association, lobbying on behalf of hunters, was also against language excluding temporary travel carriers as appropriate shelter.

“We already have a statute that makes it illegal not to take care of your animal,” Utah Houndsmen Association President Dan Cockayne said. “We definitely are not for being cruel to an animal but we are certainly against a ridiculous, nit-picking statute that could be handled and should be handled on a local basis.”

Enforcement would be based on complaints, Davis said, which are unlikely to be levied against people in outdoor recreation settings.

“Animal control would have to seek you out in the mountains on your camping trip or fishing trip,” Davis said. “They would have to have a complaint, and they probably couldn’t find you in the mountains that quickly before the inclement weather passed.”

Stock image | Photo by Socha, iStock/Getty Images Plus

Thatcher said regardless of the likelihood of someone on a camping trip being cited, the behavior would still be criminalized and suggested that the legislation should only apply to people at their homes.

“Excluding that when you are not at home is an easy way to remedy that concern,” Thatcher said.

In its last revision, the bill was amended to only apply to people in their place of residence.

The bill passed in the Senate with a 15-13 vote. Southern Utah Sens. Don Ipson, R-St. George, and Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, voted against the proposed legislation. Vickers said the idea looked good on paper but enforcement would be complicated.

As it was never brought to vote in the House, the bill ultimately died when the Legislature wrapped Thursday.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, suggested that in the future, the idea of the bill could be implemented as a Salt Lake County ordinance rather than state statute.


Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2018 issues

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • desertgirl March 9, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    So because you live in a rural area you can treat your animals cruelly. This state has a long way to go to be humane and decent society. Shame on the legislature and the people who mistreat and kill our pets. You don’t deserve and should not have an animal you chain up.

  • PlanetU March 9, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    The DO NOTHING legislators! How clear must it be or you to understand, enforce? A lot of talk, words but DO NOTHING!

  • dodgers March 9, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    The Utah House sucks, big time. Never even bring it up for a vote? The same applies to Vickers. Gutless representatives without hearts or souls. They paint an extremely ugly picture of Utah.

    • Real Life March 10, 2018 at 8:36 am

      Yes they do. Over and over.

  • Gary March 10, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Once again big business buys the vote or no vote.

  • Uncle Lenny March 10, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    45 Days, 500 laws passed. They work hard, people. Now, vote them out!

  • Teresa March 12, 2018 at 9:06 am

    What a bunch of nitpicking BS. People use your heads, take care of your pets. I’ve seen sheep dogs out “working” with broken legs, starving to death so bad they’re skin and bones, looking for food and shelter (while on the mountain). Every animal deserves humane treatment. Every where.

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