Cold snap coming: Herring reminds pet owners to ensure health, safety of animals
As parts of Virginia prepare for extreme cold in the coming days, Attorney General Mark Herring and his first-in-the-nation Animal Law Unit are reminding Virginia pet owners and law enforcement that animals cannot be left out in the cold without adequate shelter and care, and that there can be serious legal consequences, including charges of animal cruelty, if an animal is left in the cold without adequate shelter.
“The law requires owners to protect their pets from the elements and gives law enforcement tools to ensure the safety and health of an animal, including the ability in certain circumstances to seize an animal to ensure its safety,” said Attorney General Herring. “As we prepare for this cold snap, I’d encourage all Virginians to check on and take care of yourself, your friends, neighborhoods, and family members, and don’t forget about your animals.”
Leaving an animal exposed to the cold with no shelter or inadequate shelter can be considered animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
Attorney General Herring and his Animal Law Unit advise animal control officers to ask owners to bring the dogs inside or into adequate shelter, ask the owner to surrender the animal if they are unable to provide adequate shelter, or in certain circumstances take temporary custody of the animal to ensure its safety.
In 2015, Attorney General Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. To date the unit has handled hundreds of matters, including trainings, prosecutions, and consultations.