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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate Votes To Expand Dog Protections In Delaware

January 23, 2019

DOVER – The Delaware Senate passed legislation Thursday to crack down on animal sheltering, tethering and leashing practices that lead to dangerous conditions and canine deaths every year.

Senate Bill 139, which passed the House with two amendments on Tuesday, now heads to Governor John Carney for his signature.

“Animal welfare is an issue close to my heart, and I have been overwhelmed by the support this bill has received from my community and around the state,” said Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton, who-co sponsored the bill with Sen. Stephanie Hansen.  “Countless Delawareans ask us to improve animal protection laws year after year, and I knew that this bill would pass if we kept up the pressure. I am proud to celebrate that moment today and look forward to standing with the Governor as SB 139 is signed into law later this year.”

First introduced and passed in the Senate in 2019, SB 139 revived and combined two bills from the 149th General Assembly: Sen. Hansen’s SB 216 and Sen. Walsh’s SB 217. Both of those measures passed the Senate in 2018, but failed to get a vote on the floor of the House.

Sens. Walsh and Hansen, along with House sponsors Reps. Earl Jaques and Kim Williams, worked with stakeholders, state agencies, animal advocates and others to reach a consensus that led to a new bill for the 150th General Assembly.

“Several years ago, I helped create the Office of Animal Welfare to better advocate for our four-legged friends who can’t speak for themselves,” said Rep. Jaques, D-Glasgow. “This bill is another step in that process, providing protection for animals from harsh weather. I have seen dogs out in all kinds of weather, and I’m glad we’re taking this step forward.”

The bill adds protections for dogs during hazardous weather conditions, curbs the extended use of tethering, and improves public safety by adding specific language about when dogs can be allowed off leash.

Additionally, owners would be barred from leaving their dogs outside and unattended for more than 15 minutes during any period in which a hazardous weather advisory or warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the local area.

Owners who refuse, fail, or neglect to comply with this section will face a civil fine like a speeding or parking ticket. The bill sets those fines at $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second, and $500 for each subsequent violation.

The bill is in line with Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws that have limited tethering and added requirements for sheltering during extreme weather.

SB139 was lifted from the table in the House earlier this week and amended to clarify how the law impacts dog enclosures and public dog parks, and the nine-consecutive-hour limit on how long owners are permitted to tether dogs.

The measure passed that chamber 33-6 before clearing the Senate a second time by a vote of 15-5, with one absence, on Thursday.

“Dog owners, by and large, do right by their four-legged friends,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown. “But, tragically, every year we hear new, heartbreaking stories about dogs being left outside in the freezing cold, overheating in the summer, or being otherwise harmed by neglect. Adding the kind of clear language included in this bill won’t just help enforcement agencies do their job, it will help owners pursue best practices and keep pets and people safe in the First State.”