Va. attorney general's office: Owners who leave dogs outside 'can and should be charged'

Photo: MGN Online

As temperatures up and down the East Coast drop to record lows, the Virginia attorney general's office isn't messing around when it comes to shivering pups.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch, head of the office's Animal Law Unit, sent an email to the Virginia Animal Control Association Wednesday reminding them of the tools at their disposal when looking out for freezing dogs.

"During this cold snap we are experiencing, a dog with no shelter at all can easily freeze to death," Welch wrote. "Depriving an animal of necessary shelter... That is cruelty. Any dog should be seized under those conditions."

Blue barrels or "decrepit" shelters do not count, Welch explained.

"They don't get to let their dog freeze to death," Welch wrote. "Leaving a notice is not enough."

If owners are available, they can choose whether to bring their dog inside or surrender them to Animal Control, Welch explained.

"If they don't want to comply, then you should seize the dog," she wrote. "Under the conditions we are experiencing, the owners can and should be charged with cruelty. These conditions are the same conditions as a hurricane."

Welch has "been successful" in prosecuting such charges, she notes.

Confirming the email," the office's Director of Communication Michael Kelly said in an emailed statement: "We hope everyone will check on and take care of their friends, family members, and neighbors during this severe weather, and they shouldn’t forget about their furry friends."

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