Last year when I was a brand-new dog owner, I was nervous about taking my 8-week-old puppy outside to relieve himself in the middle of the night. My yard was dark, snow-covered, and my phone told me it was 16 degrees outside. Admittedly, we were only outside for a few minutes - but what about dog owners who leave their animals outside for longer periods of time... and when does it become illegal?

Look at this face! Would YOU want him outside in the freezing night? (Jonah)
Look at this face! Would YOU want him outside in the freezing night? (Jonah)
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Dogs vs. New York Winters

It's suggested that small dogs like Arthur (below) stay indoors except when necessary (hello, bathroom break) when temperatures dip below freezing. This expands to most other dogs as well when it gets down below 20 degrees. Those are suggestions, but what about the law?

How long should you let your little furball stay out in the cold? (Jonah/TSM)
How long should you let your little furball stay out in the cold? (Jonah/TSM)
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The Letter of the Law in New York State

Luckily, they're pretty straightforward, and largely revolve around the "if you're cold, they're cold" philosophy, meaning that the written guidelines seem to treat domestic animals like... insert sarcastic gasp here... living things! Section 353-B from the New York senate states:

Any person who owns or has custody or control of a dog that is left outdoors shall provide it with shelter appropriate to its breed, physical condition and the climate.

Seems simple enough, but there are some details worth investigating. First, the law seems to allow for the fact that dogs, like people, are different. For example, my brother-in-law's Husky absolutely loves the cold and has to be coaxed with treats; that would clearly not be the case if you owned, let's say, a hairless Chihuahua. Second, the law touches on other weather situations.

Arthur striking a pose in the snow (Jonah/TSM)
Arthur striking a pose in the snow (Jonah/TSM)
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Being Hot Sucks, Too

Don't forget, harsh weather isn't just cold. Extreme heat is also a danger to our four-legged friends. As New York legislation states:

For dogs that are restrained in any manner outdoors, [they should have access to] shade by natural or artificial means to protect the dog from direct sunlight at all times when exposure to sunlight is likely to threaten the health of the dog.

Violators of this law will incur a first-time fine of $50-$100, a subsequent fine between $100-$250, and additional fines every 3 days if the animal owners haven't corrected their shelters. They also risk losing custody of their pets.

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If you see an animal that you believe is in danger or distress due to inappropriate outdoor housing, you can call 911 or your local animal control office.

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