ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — As temperatures are dropping and the snow is falling around Virginia, pet owners may find themselves breaking the law by leaving furry friends outside, especially during extreme weather conditions.

Virginia law says that animals cannot be tied up or chained outdoors in the following conditions:

  • When temperatures are 85 degrees or higher
  • When temperatures are 32 degrees or lower
  • When there is a severe weather warning, a heat advisory, a hurricane, or a tropical storm
  • If the animal is in danger from predators or ill-equipped to tolerate tethering
  • If the animal is too young, too old, sick, injured, or vulnerable

If an animal is found tethered outside under such conditions, the owner could be arrested and spend up to a year in jail.

In addition, if you pet is an outdoor pet, you are required to give them adequate shelter that is clean, is suitable for the pet’s age and size, protects them from the elements, has a windbreak at its entrance, and has straw or other suitable bedding inside.

Animal shelters in the New River Valley also remind pet owners that animals need as much or more water when it’s cold than when it’s hot, so make sure they have fresh, non-frozen water at all times.

If you see any animals living in any extreme weather or other illegal conditions, you are urged to contact your local animal control.

Julie Rickmond, the marketing and communications director for the Roanoke Valley SPCA, also encourages people to reach out if they have trouble taking care of their pets.

“If people are struggling but maybe they feel a little bit embarrassed about ‘I can’t provide the adequate shelter or I’m leaving my dog tethered because I can’t bring them in for some reason,’ reach out to us,” says Rickmond. We want to be able to help and see what we can do so you don’t have to relinquish that pet or so you don’t get fined or something else because you’ve done something illegal.”

Rickmond says you can also help your pet in the winter by washing their paws after bringing them inside. This is especially important if it’s snowing and your pet walks on treated road because salt can get stuck on their paws and cause painful injuries.