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Animal advocates reminding owners about cold weather law

Posted at 10:27 PM, Dec 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-14 22:27:49-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- As temperatures drop, dog advocates and animal control officers are out educating pet owners about the law.

A new animal care and treatment ordinance went into effect in September 2015, and requires dog owners to bring their animals inside when the temperature hits 20 degrees or below.

“I think the word is getting out, but there’s still people that don’t know,” said Darcie Kurtz, founder of Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside. “That’s where our program comes in in getting out and letting people know.”

Thursday, FIDO headed out with Indianapolis Animal Control Officer Rebecca Knowles to look for dogs and pet owners in need of supplies or information.

This is the first year FIDO and Indianapolis Animal Care Services have teamed up in this manner to educate people about the hot and cold weather ordinance.

Just a few minutes into their trek, they spotted a dog chained up at a liquor store.

The law says dogs have to have shelter when they’re outside, and when temperatures hit below 40 degrees, that shelter has to have insulating bedding and a cover over the opening.

“This dog didn’t have any shelter, the chain was too short, and the dog was not neutered,” said Kurtz.

The dog’s owner told Kurtz he only tied it up for a few minutes, so FIDO got the man a new leash and collar, and a voucher to take the dog to a veterinarian.

Kurtz and Knowles then headed to check on Patricia Shelton, a long time east side resident and owner of two pit bull mixes.

The city recently cited Shelton after her dog bit a neighbor.

FIDO helped provide Shelton with shelters with straw inside, and FIDO is also working to help build a larger enclosure for the dogs.

"A little bit bigger, close to the house,” said Shelton. “Where it will be easier for me to open the door and let them run loose. I thank God for FIDO and for Darcie for coming out and helping me."

Both of Shelton’s dogs are neutered.

The law says if your dogs have not been fixed, they can’t be chained up, unless the owner is right there with them.

Just a few houses away, Officer Knowles spots dogs in an outside kennel that’s too small and covered in feces.

"I did not see water,” said Knowles. “There's a big problem in the winter time where the water freezes. They either have to get a heated water bowl, or they have to come outside more often and change out the water so it’s not frozen."

Indianapolis Animal Care Services will return in a week or so to make sure the dogs’ owner made the necessary changes.

As a last resort, officers will issue a care and treatment violation and impound the dog.

"We don't want to take people's dogs, because the more dogs we take the more we have to euthanize in the long run because there's not enough room," said Knowles. “We don’t want to overcrowd the shelter more than it already is.”

Kurtz said the ordinance is in place for a reason.

"It's the law and from an animal welfare perspective we've raised the bar in Indianapolis for how people care for their dogs,” said Kurtz. “If the person just doesn’t want to comply, that’s where we can have animal care services step in.”

Here’s what the law states:


It is against the law to chain your dog if any of the following is true:  

  • Your dog is less than 6 months old
  • Your dog is sick or injured
  • It is between 11 pm and 6 am
  • Your dog is not spayed or neutered (unless your dog is within eyesight)


  • Dog must have adequate space for exercise; at least 100 square feet
  • Any dog over 80 pounds must have 150 square feet
  • Add extra 50 square feet for each additional dog


Dog must have access to: 

  • Shelter constructed of solid, weather resistant materials
  • Dry floor raised above the ground
  • Roof sloped away from entrance


Dog must be brought inside temperature controlled building if: 

  • Temperature outside is 20 degrees and below
  • Temperature outside is 90 degrees and above
  • There’s a heat advisory
  • There’s a wind chill warning
  • There’s a tornado warning

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