A new law unanimously passed by Fairview Park City Council at its May 16 meeting defines conditions under which pets, such as dogs, may be left outdoors.
In addition to prohibiting torture and cruelty against animals, this new addition to the city code states that pets must be given adequate shelter from excessive heat and cold. Adequate shelter will be necessary when the temperature is freezing or below and the animal is visibly shivering for at least five minutes, according to the law.
Violation of this section of the law is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Dogs left outside in temperatures freezing or below for more than one hour must have access to an enclosed, dry shelter with enough space for the animal to turn around in, the law states. Dog pens must be at least 150 square feet in diameter.
In addition, dogs must not be left outdoors with a chain or tether for more than nine consecutive hours a day. The chain or tether must be of a reasonable length, the law states.
The law also prohibits dogs to ride unrestrained in the unenclosed bed of a pickup truck.
Violations of most aspects of the new law are minor misdemeanors. Convicted offenders may be required to give up ownership of their pets, according to the five-page ordinance.
Work on the legislation began more than a year ago when a North Olmsted resident complained that a Fairview Park dog, which she saw while driving through the city, was left outdoors in extremely cold weather.
Ward 4 Councilman John Hinkel investigated the claims, but concluded the dog was not in any danger. But he said he discovered the city’s laws regulating the care of animals were lacking.
“What we had could fit on a postcard,” he said.
The code prohibited abuse, but not neglect, of animals. “I thought there was a gap,” Hinkel said.
Hinkel consulted Jeffery Holland, an attorney who has been retained by a dozen Ohio humane societies and represents the Cleveland Animal Protective League as a prosecuting attorney. Holland drafted the Fairview Park law, which was reviewed and endorsed by the Cleveland APL.
Animal neglect is the first issue on which Hinkel spearheaded new legislation. Several of his fellow council colleagues publicly praised his effort once the law passed.
Hinkel said the new law will give police a tool with which to handle cases of possible animal neglect – something they can charge persons with.
Hinkel said he also hopes it will raise awareness about the need to properly care for pets.
“I’m hoping it will just make people think,” he said.