by Brandon Todd
This past January, Petworth captured the attention of the District and animal lovers around the nation when a pit bull named Momma was left outdoors in extreme cold. The inhumanity with which Momma was treated, and the insufficiency of existing laws to address her abuse, sparked a grassroots movement to strengthen the District’s animal welfare laws to ensure that no animal suffered the way Momma did. Since then, I have been hard at work with advocates and the Humane Rescue Alliance crafting comprehensive animal welfare legislation. I am proud to report progress on this endeavor.
This past Tuesday, the Council held its first vote on the “ Standard of Care for Animals Amendment Act of 2017.” It passed unanimously. This omnibus animal-welfare legislation is a re-titled, expanded version of my bill, the “Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Act of 2017,” which was introduced in January.
The new bill creates a “standard of care” that all pet owners must comply with – something brand new for the District. In addition to stronger definitions for adequate care, food, shelter, space, and water, the bill grants Animal Control the ability to issue citations and collect fines from bad actors. It provides the legal clarity and authority necessary to holistically protect the health and safety of District animals.
Because a second passing vote is required before legislation can be sent to the Mayor, I also introduced mirroring emergency legislation that was unanimously passed by the Council and will remain in effect for 90 days upon the Mayor’s signature. The emergency legislation will ensure that our four-legged friends are well-protected this summer until the permanent legislation can be fully passed into law.
Notably, the legislation prohibits owners from leaving animals outdoors in 90°+ weather for more than 15 minutes, unless the age, condition, size and type of animal can withstand that temperature or adequate shelter is provided. It also grants authority to Animal Control officers, firefighters, or law enforcement officers to use reasonable force to remove animals from vehicles if the animal’s health is endangered – a critical clause, as temperatures in parked vehicles rapidly rise to dangerous levels during the summer. You can read the full DC Council bill.
Throughout the legislative process, I have been extremely impressed with the level of citizen engagement on this bill. It is so heartening to see the Ward 4 community rally around this cause. I would especially like to thank Sarah Yacoub and Emily Price, who have been invaluable advocates in the effort to strengthen the District’s animal welfare laws.
We are well on our way to achieving our goal, and when the Council reconvenes in September, I look forward to continuing the effort until this bill becomes law.
Editor's note: We're pleased to have Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd as a contributor to the Petworth News blog. The Councilmember has a regular column sharing pertinent news and information about things happening at the DC Council that impact a Ward 4 audience. This column does not confer or imply any official status for Petworth News as an official DC Council or DC government information outlet, nor affiliation with any campaign matter in any way. This is a way for you to be more directly engaged with your DC Councilmember.