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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate Votes To Expand Protections For Dogs In The First State

June 18, 2019

DOVER –The Delaware Senate passed a bill Tuesday to crack down on sheltering, tethering and leashing practices that result in dangerous conditions and canine deaths every year.

The bill draws heavily from two bills from the 149th General Assembly: Sen. Stephanie Hansen’s SB 216 and Sen. Jack Walsh’s SB 217. After those bills expired on the last day of the 2018 session, both senators got to work on an updated version.

The Senators worked with stakeholders and experts from the Office of Animal Welfare, Delaware Veterinary Medical Society, DNREC, Delaware State Police, Farm Bureau, Sportsman Caucus, various shelters, and several animal advocates to reach a consensus that  led to a new bill for the 150th General Assembly.

Senate Bill 139, the result of those discussions, includes the tethering and sheltering requirements of previous legislation and adds new leashing rules, as well. The legislation passed by a vote of 14-5.

“It has been a privilege to work on this issue and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support from my community and around the state,” said Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton. “I was disappointed that our bills didn’t pass last year, but I think our legislation got stronger over time and that we are in an improved position this time around. I’m glad we got this passed today and I look forward to a better result in the House before we gavel out at the end of the month.”

“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.”

The bill adds protections for dogs during hazardous weather conditions, curbs the extended use of tethering, and improves public safety of people and dogs from dogs off leash by adding specific language about when it is ok and not ok for a dog to be 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.

The legislation now heads to the House for final consideration.