December 27, 2017
By: Gina Browning, SPCA Chief Communications Officer

Animal shelter for dogs left outdoors in New York State must be appropriate to the animal's age, size, and health, and appropriate for inclement winter weather too.Reports of dogs left outdoors for extended periods of time without access to shelter during the coldest, windiest, and/or snowiest days of winter are the most frequent complaints received by the SPCA Serving Erie County and other humane societies across New York State throughout the winter months.

A New York State Agriculture and Markets Law passed in November 2003 (N.Y. AGM. LAW § 353-B: Appropriate shelter for dogs left outdoors) states that anyone with custody of a dog left outdoors must provide the dog with shelter appropriate to its breed, size, physical condition, and climate, adequately protecting the animal.

The law (in abbreviated form) reads this way: “The Owner or Custodian of a dog left outdoors in inclement weather must provide the dog with shelter appropriate to its breed, physical condition, and the climate. INCLEMENT WEATHER: weather conditions likely to adversely affect the health or safety of the dog (includes rain, sleet, ice, snow, wind, extreme heat or cold, and anything else that is likely to adversely affect the well-being of the dog). DOG LEFT OUTDOORS: A dog that is outside in inclement weather without ready access to, or the ability to enter a house, apartment building, office building, or any other permanent structure that meets the minimum standards for shelter required by this law.  PHYSICAL CONDITION: includes any special medical needs of a dog due to disease, illness, injury, age, or breed which an owner or custodian should reasonably know about.”

The law goes on to describe minimum standards for animal shelter, and penalties for violations, summarized below:

     -If the shelter is deemed insufficient, state animal welfare officers have the ability to legally intervene and seize the animal due to lack of adequate shelter, even if the animal is healthy and unharmed.

     -Guidelines that constitute proper housing include a permanent structure with a waterproof roof that is structurally sound, sufficiently insulated to protect the animal from the elements, with space to change position.

     -The structure and surrounding area needs to be free from excessive dirt, trash or waste so as not to threaten the physical well-being of the dog.

     -Beginning 72 hours after a charge of a violation, each day that an owner does not provide adequate shelter in inclement weather constitutes a separate violation. Violation of the law entails escalating fines:  $50 – $100 for a first offense, and $100 – $250 each for subsequent offenses. If a dog is seized for a violation of the law, the owner is not able to reclaim the dog without proof that he or she is providing the dog with adequate shelter in compliance with this provision.

Read the law in its entirety here.

The SPCA encourages community members to keep pets as companions, living inside homes or apartments… particularly on winter’s most frigid days, and summer’s hottest and most humid days.

If residents see dogs left outdoors for extended periods of time in inclement weather and are concerned about the state of the animal’s shelter, and if the location is in Erie County, please contact the SPCA: 716-875-7360.

See other SPCA winter pet safety tips here.


Those who witness a situation that might constitute
cruelty and/or violence toward animals in Erie County,
including animals left outdoors with inappropriate
shelter in yards, are encouraged to report the
circumstances to the SPCA Serving Erie County:
716-875-7360 or