What the Rhode Island General Assembly Should Know – Not all Dog Breeds are the Same

Contact: Joe Mullin, Northeastern States Assistant Manager

  • On March 9, the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee convened to discuss House Bill 5736 (HB 5736) – legislation that would impose a fine of up to $1,000 for leaving a dog “tethered outside and unattended” for 30 minutes or longer in temperatures common during the New England hunting seasons.
  • HB 5736 failed to account for the abilities of different dog breeds to thrive in adverse weather conditions, while also making no attempt to fill definitional voids that would make enforcement challenging.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of opposition to the House Judiciary Committee, highlighting its concerns with HB 5736.
  • Ultimately, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that the measure be held for further study.

Why it Matters: This legislation would subject a $1,000 fine on anyone who leaves a dog tethered outside and unattended in temperatures 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, which blatantly ignores the capabilities of different dog breeds to sustain themselves and perform well afield in extreme weather conditions. A dog’s adaptability to extreme weather may be dampened with limited time spent outdoors. Additionally, HB 5736 completely fails to define the terms “tethered” and “outside and unattended,” which raises a number of questions into the legality of several common hunting and training practices (i.e., hunting with a dog on a check cord, and/or utilizing tie-outs for obedience training).

Whether it’s an issue with substandard kennels or dog tethering, the animal rights groups have a strong affinity for painting all dog breeds with the same brush, and HB 5736 is the latest example. There is no question that sportsmen and women in the New England region often face some of the harshest winter weather, and as they head afield with their four-legged hunting partners, they expect that their previous training will be reflected in their pursuits. In many cases, this also comes down to the dog’s ability to adapt to harsh weather.

HB 5736 would levy a $1,000 fine on anyone who leaves a dog tethered outside and unattended in temperatures at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs have varying capabilities to sustain themselves in extreme weather conditions, and sportsmen and women know this first-hand through their days spent pursuing pheasants in snow-capped fields, or while breaking ice during early morning waterfowl hunts. When a dog’s time outside is limited, its adaptability to these conditions is lessened, and the shock value is even greater to its health and body when it is exposed to adverse weather. HB 5736 disregards this consideration by implementing a blanket restriction on a dog exceeding 30 minutes “outside and unattended” in such weather.

This bill also fails to expand on the terms “tethered” and “outside and unattended,” leaving much up for interpretation. Sportsmen and women are religious about following the honorable fish and wildlife laws enforced by the Department of Environmental Management, and HB 5736 offers no insight into what constitutes a dog’s tethering or being left outside and unattended.

For these reasons, CSF’s Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, submitted a letter of opposition to the House Judiciary Committee, which ultimately recommended that the measure be held for further study. CSF will continue to remain engaged on the issue, and updates will be provided as they are made available.

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