Protect your pet

Law in favor of animal safety passed


Maggie Curran, Opinion Editor

When I was 10 years old, I accidentally left my golden retriever outside in a snowstorm. He couldn’t have been out there for more than 15 minutes, but once I realized what I had done, I brought my dog inside, fed him handfuls of Milkbones, and wrapped him in towels as I cried and promised him I would never let it happen again. Needless to say, I have a soft spot for animals.

So when Illinois lawmakers declared it a felony to leave pets outside in extreme weather, I couldn’t have been happier. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would oppose this act, seeing as it ensures the health and safety of our beloved cats and dogs; and yet as with everything, some people found a way to fight this logic.

The bill, which was approved by the House 104-11 and will go into effect on Jan. 1st, 2016, is perceived by some to be too controlling. Those who oppose believe that it is up to pet owners to determine how an animal is treated and that the government should not regulate this treatment. This begs the question: how is exposing a pet to extreme and dangerous weather any different from animal abuse?

According to PETA, extreme weather, specifically extreme cold, can severely impact an animal’s health and even their behavior. Dehydration, frostbite, and aggression are all consequences of exposure to extremely cold weather conditions. These effects can be just as detrimental to an animal as physical abuse and may even lead to death. In fact, the incentive to create this bill was the multiple cases of dogs freezing to death in Chicago last winter. For this reason, the law isn’t an issue of owner’s rights; it’s a step in ensuring the safety of all pets.

With winter just around the corner, it’s terrifying to think about the animals whose owners will neglect to keep them safe. Hopefully this law will create more incentive for pet owners to do the right thing, aside from the obvious moral obligation that should exist within us all. If caught leaving their pet outdoors in extreme weather, owners can be fined as much as $2,500 and could even spend up to 1 year in jail. This incentive shouldn’t have to be necessary, but it is a bit reassuring for animal lovers like me.

The real take-away from the controversy surrounding this new law is that some people truly don’t understand pet ownership. The bottom line is that it is a huge responsibility. You can’t be angry about having to give your pet healthy living conditions; it’s the job you signed up for when you first brought your pet home. Muddy paws and wet dog smell are no excuse to leave man’s best friend out in the cold this winter, and come summer your pets will need the air conditioning just as much as you do. If you wouldn’t want to spend prolonged periods of time in extreme cold and heat, don’t subject your animal to it. Simple as that.