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Michigan Law and What’s Best for Dogs Forced to Live Outdoors
Dog Owners Can Face Fines, Community Service, and Prison for Failing to Provide Minimal Shelter Current Law: Michigan law (MCL 750.50) states the minimum standards for dog houses. It defines a dog house as “an enclosed structure with a roof and of appropriate dimensions for the breed and size of the dog. The doghouse shall have dry bedding when the outdoor temperature is or is predicted to drop below freezing.”
Failure to provide this or a barn, garage, or other “sufficiently insulated and ventilated” structure is a violation of the law. This failure is a misdemeanor that could result in: • Up to 93 days in prison • Up to 200 hours of community service • A fine of up to $1,000, plus the cost of prosecution • Stiffer penalties if the crime involves more than one dog, or if it results in a dog’s death Good Shelter: At minimum, dogs must have a dog house in which to stay.
Dog houses should be: • Large enough to allow dogs to stand and lay down comfortably • Raised off the ground (affixed to a pallet works well) • A model with insulated walls, a slanted roof, and a door flap • Supplied with plentiful straw for bedding, 10-20 percent more food than usual, and water that is not frozen • Facing east and away from the wind Better Shelter: Doghouses inside weather resistant shelters are superior to those outside.
Weather-resistant shelters can include barns, pole barns, basements, enclosed porches, garages, sheds, and three-season rooms (i.e., Florida rooms). It is illegal to rely solely on weather-resistant shelters. They must also contain doghouses. Best Shelter: Dogs are safest when indoors with the family, especially if they are small or have short fur. Even one night or a break from the cold can help save a dog’s life. MHS Stats: The Michigan Humane Society’s Cruelty and Investigation Department responded to: • 2017, as of Dec. 24 — 627 complaints of no shelter — 1,263 complaints of no food, water, or shelter • 2016 — 926 complaints of no shelter — 1,366 complaints of no food, water, or shelter Adjustment Period: Dogs must adapt to extreme cold. Owners can help by moving their dogs to a weather-resistant shelter for 12-24 hours. See “Better Shelter” above for examples.
Extreme Limits: 15-20 degrees for all dogs, big and small Common Mistakes: • Blankets, coats, and sweaters can kill. This results when these garments soak up snowmelt. When this water freezes it further chills dogs, leading to hypothermia, frostbite, and death. • Avoid toxic ice-melt products. These products can stick to paws, allowing pets to lick and ingest their chemicals. These chemicals are poisonous, so owners should instead choose non-toxic ice melts. • Snow and snowmelt can freeze to animals’ fur and feet. Owners can make their dogs warmer and more comfortable by removing this buildup right away. Warning signs: • Shivering • Cold to the touch • Red ears or tail, especially at the tips • Digging in the snow as if to create a bed • Laying in the fetal position (i.e., curling up into a ball)