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Leaving Pets in Cold Can Have ‘Serious Legal Consequences,’ State AG Warns

That can include charges of animal cruelty.




RICHMOND, VA — As parts of Virginia prepare for extreme cold in the coming days, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his Animal Law Unit are reminding Virginia pet owners and law enforcement that leaving animals out in the cold can bring “serious legal consequences.”

That can include charges of animal cruelty, Herring said in a press release.

“The law requires owners to protect their pets from the elements and gives law enforcement tools to ensure the safety and health of an animal, including the ability in certain circumstances to seize an animal to ensure its safety,” Herring said. “As we prepare for this cold snap, I’d encourage all Virginians to check on and take care of yourself, your friends, neighborhoods, and family members, and don’t forget about your animals.”

Leaving an animal exposed to the cold with no shelter or inadequate shelter can be considered animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, according to the release.

Herring and the Animal Law Unit advise animal control officers to ask owners to bring the dogs inside or into adequate shelter, ask owners to surrender the animal if they are unable to provide adequate shelter, or in certain circumstances take temporary custody of the animal to ensure its safety.

In 2015, Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty and welfare, according to the release.




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