Leaving your pet outside during the summer should be considered abuse

Jun 7, 2016 at 6:40 p.m. ET
Image: Manuel Faba Ortega/Getty Images

I didn't really grow up with pets. I had a dog, Spike, for a short stint. I bought him from a kid for 50 cents and my mom let us keep him for a while. I don't remember where he slept, and I only knew two other people with dogs who lived in the house. But since I've had my own pets, I've started leaning decidedly on the side of "pets belong in the house, not outside" camp.

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And if there was a teeny amount of doubt left, this guy who left his puppy on his balcony during record temperatures in Phoenix, Arizona, has put me completely over the edge. Neighbors say they called police after hearing the puppy whine and seeing it jumping around to avoid burning its paws. And though firefighters pulled up a ladder to rescue the pup, by the time they arrived it had died. The high temp that day registered at 113 degrees.

When we sign up for a pet, we sign up for a family member. And before we move a new family member into our space, we should make sure we have all the bases covered. Do we have enough room for him? Where will she sleep? Can we afford it? With babies, it's easy to have a surprise — to plan for one thing and have a completely different thing happen. But with pets, we choose them. They don't call us up one day asking for a place to live. We go out of our way — to a breeder, a rescue group, the pound, a pet shop (a reputable one that doesn't use puppy mills, please!) — to choose them, to find the perfect fit for our families. They don't choose us.

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Which is to say that they don't choose to stay home alone all day, chained, in the backyard. They don't choose to stand on a balcony in 113-degree heat, their paws burning. They don't choose to wait in a non-ventilated hot car on days so hot that many of us hesitate to leave the house, and even more of us refuse to use our ovens.

We can hardly let our children play outside just a few feet away without having someone call the police. So why is it still OK to have dogs who live solely outside? I'm not talking about working dogs who stay out all night hunting or working the farm (be honest, how many of us are actually using our Border collies to herd sheep?).

In most states, it's only a crime to leave your pet outdoors in extreme temperatures, since it may be considered animal cruelty or neglect. That could mean that temperatures would have to be freezing or extremely hot or the pet would be outside without food, water or shelter. There's a huge difference between it being hot — let's say 86 degrees — and the temperatures that poor Phoenix dog was in before it died. But he shouldn't have been out there on that balcony in the first place; because that's not how you treat family. And I wish more people thought that way.

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