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DC Council Passes Standard of Care for Animals Amendment Act of 2017

The DC Council voted today to pass the “Standard of Care for Animals Amendment Act of 2017,” a significant revision to the laws governing the humane treatment of animals in the District of Columbia.

The animal-welfare legislation provides the Humane Rescue Alliance’s Animal Control officers additional tools with which they can enforce the laws concerning the humane treatment of animals. The bill also creates and defines a standard of care for animals, including requirements of adequate care, food, space, shelter and water.

“This is an important moment for the animals of the District of Columbia,” said Lisa LaFontaine, President and CEO for the Humane Rescue Alliance. “This bill establishes strong definitions for adequate care for animals and empowers the dedicated professionals that make up our Animal Care and Control team. Moving forward, our officers now have more tools at their disposal to ensure that the animals of our city are protected and are able to prosecute those that choose to violate these laws effectively.”

“This comprehensive animal-welfare bill creates a ‘Standard of Care’ that all pet owners must comply with – something brand new for the District,” said Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4). “By providing the authority necessary to holistically protect the health and safety of District animals, we can prevent others from suffering like Momma, a Petworth pit bull left outdoors in frigid temperatures whose inhumane treatment triggered an outpouring of concern and my introduction of an earlier version of this legislation. I thank the Humane Rescue Alliance for their advocacy and assistance in crafting this bill, and appreciate their commitment to protecting animal wellbeing in the District.”

The law will be known as “Ray’s Law,” a tribute to Vice President of Field Services Ray Noll, a longtime animal welfare advocate who was instrumental in crafting the legislation. Noll, who passed away suddenly last week, had worked tirelessly for months to ensure the bill would effectively address the issues of adequate care and proper enforcement.

The amendment is the result of months of deliberation by city officials and Humane Rescue Alliance representatives to craft the new legislation. The bill was introduced originally by Councilmember Brandon Todd as emergency legislation in February when concern arose over animals left outside in cold weather. That bill, the Standard Care of Animals Amendment Act of 2017 passed its first reading by the Council in July.

Highlights of the amendment include the following:

  • Provides Humane Rescue Alliance officers with the authority to issue citations and warnings in cases of intentional or grossly negligent harm to an animal.
  • Defines “adequate shelter.” When the temperature is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, “adequate shelter” shall  mean that a the dog has access to a shelter large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around, that has an entrance covered by a flexible wind-proofing material or self-closing door, that contains a platform for the dog at least 4 inches off the ground, and that contains dry bedding, which must consist of an insulating material that does not retain moisture, such as straw, of sufficient depth for the dog to burrow. When the temperature is at or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, “adequate shelter” shall additionally mean that a dog has access to a shelter shaded by trees, a roof, a tarp, or a tarp-like device.
  • Clarifies that an animal cannot be outdoors for more than 15 minutes during periods of extreme weather without human accompaniment or adequate shelter. Extreme weather means temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Clarifies that an animal or animals shall not be left alone in a vehicle in such a way that endangers the animal’s health or safety.

In a related development, the DC Council has approved emergency legislation that will allow food establishments in Washington, DC to permit dogs in outdoor dining areas and unenclosed sidewalk cafés. The emergency bill by the DC Council, along with the permanent Standard Care for Animals Amendment, further establishes Washington, DC as a proponent of responsible pet ownership.


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