Animal-welfare measure advancing through D.C. Council

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The John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW holds the offices for the mayor and D.C. Council. (photo courtesy of Josh Gibson)

A permanent animal-welfare bill nicknamed “Momma’s Law” is advancing through the D.C. Council, with emergency legislation already in effect to protect pets from summer heat.

The bill’s nickname comes from a pitbull in Petworth who came to the public’s attention this January when she was left outdoors for several days in extreme cold. The resulting publicity brought an “outpouring of concern,” according to a news release from Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd, who introduced the new legislation along with colleagues Mary Cheh and Vincent Gray.

One provision of the legislation prohibits pet owners from leaving animals unattended outside for more than 15 minutes in extreme weather (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees). Another allows animal control and law enforcement officials to “use reasonable force” to remove animals from parked vehicles when the animals’ health appears endangered. Other measures include giving Humane Rescue Alliance workers the right to issue citations up to $1,000 for animal-welfare violations; and establishing an Animal Education and Outreach Fund to finance spaying and neutering services, along with an education program for pet owners.

According to the release from Todd’s office, the bill started as the “Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Act” and has since expanded to include other animal welfare measures.

The council passed an emergency version of the legislation on July 11 to protect D.C. pets “during the hot summer months,” according to Todd’s release. The permanent legislation also passed its first vote unanimously that day, and will get its second and final vote this fall, the release says.