Even one story is bad enough, but here in New Jersey this winter, we've already seen a handful of cases in which dogs were left outside in the extreme cold without much of a shot at surviving.

A dog before being rescued by the Atlantic County SPCA from a Buena Vista yard (Atlantic County SPCA)

The trend has hit a major nerve with animal advocates in the Garden State, and they're pushing for changes in the law so "evil" pet owners are forced to pay for their cruelty.

Heart-wrenching tales have been reported out of Newark, Parsippany and Buena Vista to name a few. Dogs were discovered fighting for their lives, or had already lost the fight.

According to Scott Crawford, assistant director for Associated Humane Societies, the heart of the issue is the state's weak definition of adequate shelter. Dog owners can get away with a "box on the ground," he said, because the current language says so.

"We keep running into situations that people are upset about in the general public...and unfortunately our hands are tied," Crawford told New Jersey 101.5. "It's very frustrating, very infuriating."

Cries from advocates have been heard by folks in Trenton.

Measures introduced into both houses of the Legislature in early February would strengthen the rules related to tethering dogs outdoors and giving dogs a proper shelter in adverse weather conditions, hot or cold.

Among several factors, proper shelter would be defined by:

  • Adequate ventilation;
  • Access to sanitary water;
  • Exposure to light during the day;
  • Sufficient space so the dog can turn in a full circle and lie down with limbs outstretched;
  • Adequate empty space above the dog's head in a normal sitting/standing position; and
  • Sound construction.

Crawford noted the process moves much slower on the state local than the local level, and he's pleased to see some municipalities enacting their own versions of shelter and tethering laws.

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