Porky & Buddy’s Pet Health: Shelter for Dogs in Winter

Dear Porky & Buddy,

My neighbor has a Husky mix, Roscoe, who stays outside most of the time. His “house,” if you could call it that, is a tacky ramshackle box with plywood walls and straw on the floor. Most of the time Roscoe sleeps outside, even in the snow. I want to talk to my neighbor about this eyesore, but I was wondering what I can say to him about what the law says about shelter for dogs. I know there is something in New York State, but I don’t know the details.


Dear Sam,

OK you have two issues here. One is aesthetic. The dog house is ugly. That has nothing whatsoever to do with Roscoe. Dogs have no sense of aesthetics—they really don’t. They are perfectly happy to sleep on your fancy leather couch, but they are just as happy to sleep on an old Roseanne Barr plaid couch with built in beer coolers. The same with their houses. So if you want to talk to your neighbor about his ugly dog house that may be a perfectly valid issue for you but not for Roscoe.

The second issue is the comfort and safety of Roscoe. The New York Agriculture and Markets Law Section 353-b requires that a dog left outdoors in bad weather must have shelter that: has a waterproof roof; is structurally sound with insulation appropriate to local climatic conditions and sufficient to protect the dog from inclement weather; is constructed to allow the dog adequate freedom of movement to make normal postural adjustments, including the ability to stand up, turn around and lie down with its limbs outstretched; and allows for effective removal of excretions, other waste material, dirt and trash. The shelter and the area immediately surrounding it must be regularly cleaned to maintain a healthy and sanitary environment and to minimize health hazards. Failure to meet these requirements is a violation for a first time offence and the owner can be fined from $50 to $100.

We can’t tell from your description whether Roscoe’s “house” meets these requirements. We do know that if he is truly a Husky mix, he probably loves cold weather and that may be why he stays outside in the snow. That is fine as long as he has adequate shelter when he needs it. If you think that the house does not comply with the law, you should contact your local dog control officer to make a complaint. He or she will have a clear understanding of what the law requires for this dog in this climate and will approach the owner to try to negotiate compliance if there is a problem. If that doesn’t work then you or the DCO can make a criminal complaint.

But before you do all that, here is another, more neighborly, approach. Why not just go over and talk to him, assuming you know him well enough, take a look at the house, and offer to help him fix it up so it looks a little better? Try not to insult him, of course, but he might just appreciate a kind gesture from you. And then, while you are at it, slap on a coat of paint and some fake shutters and call it a day. Good luck. And thanks for looking out for all the animals you know.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.