Delmarva Pets: Concerned neighbors demand change in Delaware laws, regulations
Updated: Jan 12, 2018 7:49 PM
By Abbey Smith
(MILTON, Del.) - Neighbors are fighting back after allegedly seeing certain dogs repeatedly left outside in dangerous weather conditions.
Both neighbors, who wish to remain anonymous, said they started noticing the dogs left outside a Milton home off Fisher Road over a year ago.
"Well in the summer, I would see the dogs laying in the dirt, because I'm sure they didn't want to go in the igloo because it was so hot," said one neighbor. "There's some cracked igloos down there... The one dog looks very thin, as a little Pit Bull, he looks very thin. It just doesn't look like a nice situation."
"People that raise animals should want to take care of them and these people clearly don't want to take care of them. They could care less," said the other.
Both neighbors say they've reached out to Delaware SPCA before it was Brandywine Valley SPCA, state police and Delaware Animal Control; however, they weren't happy with what they were told.
"[State Police] told me to call animal control, which I did, and the woman who answered the phone immediately gave me like a blanket statement 'do they have food, water and shelter?' I'm like 'well, if you consider a mud puddle [as] shelter, and food I don't know, and water I don't know,' and she goes, 'well, they're not breaking any laws if that's the case,'" explained the neighbor. "So, I got nothing. I called again, and this time she said 'we know who they are. It's currently under investigation and there has been an officer by the house to train [the pet owner] how to treat and raise their dogs,' which if you ask me, I think is pointless at this point."
"We just don't understand why this has been going on for so long and it's been reported more than once, more than probably ten or a hundred times, and nothing seems to change," explained the other.
According to Delaware law, pet owners must provide clean, moisture-resistant bedding, and additional bedding and protection for temperatures 35 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. All dogs are also required to be brought indoors when the National Weather Service issues a hazardous weather warning.
To get some answers, WRDE went directly to the Office of Animal Welfare in New Castle where Acting Director Christina Motoyoshi said she's aware of the concerns, but claims the issue had already been resolved.
"We have received a lot of calls from concerned citizens about these dogs," said Motoyoshi. "We have been out to the address on numerous occasions to check on the welfare of the animals. The owner is compliant with the law, so there is proper shelter and bedding and water available."
Motoyoshi says officials will continue to work with the dog owner to ensure the dogs' safety.
"We're glad people are concerned about pets that are out there in the cold, and we certainly want them to alert us so we can at least go out and investigate," explained Motoyoshi. "The challenge for us is always if they're meeting the requirements of the law, sometimes that may not be up to the same standards that other pet owners have for how they would care for their pets. But our obligation is to make sure these pets are safe and that's what we are out there to do, so we're glad neighbors call us."
Motoyoshi says many of the complaints they receive come from Sussex County residents.
"Generally about 30 percent of our complaints are coming from Sussex County," said Motoyoshi. "We certainly see an uptick in complaints when the temperatures are very cold because people are concerned about dogs that are outside."
Frustrated, concerned and confused, both neighbors say they're taking matters into their own hands.
"If that's the law, it's not a very strict or good law for animals. I guess I'm going to have to reach out to the congress people and those who we vote for because these are not really good for animals," said one neighbor. "For most people, your pet is a part of your family and you want to make sure that they're healthy and warm and you get just as much back from your pet as they get from you... so just treat them right and treat them the way they should be treated."
"I think the laws need to be changed. You can't treat dogs like that, you can't," said the other neighbor. "You buy or acquire an animal, you chain it to the tree outside to have it sit in the water and live its entire life like that... why? Why would you do something like that? Give the dog to somebody who'd raise it. I know plenty of people including some neighbors who would take those dogs right now and give them a great home for the rest of their lives, no problem, no questions asked, they would just take the dogs and give them a great life. They deserve that."
If you see a pet that has been left outdoors in cold temperatures without proper shelter or protection from the elements, report it to the Delaware Animal Services Hotline at 302-255-4646. Residents are advised, however, to limit their reports to cases in which they physically witnessed improper treatment or care of an animal. For more information, visit: https://animalservices.delaware.gov/.