RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One Virginia man is on a mission to prevent any more dogs from dying in harsh temperatures.

Gary Sweeney of Ashland started an online petition to draw attention to the topic. In just days, it’s garnered nearly 10,000 signatures.

“I think if anything it really validates the need for a law like this,” he said.

Sweeney, who says he’s always been a dog lover, is part of Guardians of Rescue, a non-profit animal rights organization.

He says Virginia needs a state law requiring dog owners to keep their dogs inside once the temperature drops below 35 degrees or exceeds 85 degrees.

Sweeney says he was moved by recent cases around the state like two dogs that froze to death in Frederick County and another that was found dead in Accomack County.

Both cases resulted in local charges, but Sweeney says there needs to be a standard across the state.

“It’s subjective, I would say.”

Right now, Virginia law says pet owners need to provide adequate shelter for companion animals in the heat and the cold. To read more about comprehensive animal care in the Code of Virginia, click HERE.

Sweeney would like to see it expanded.

He says Massachusetts recently passed a more detailed act and hopes Virginia will take its lead.

While he says the vast majority of people have had a positive response to his petition, there are some uncertainties.

“There have been some questions from the hunting community and the farming community about how something like this would affect them,” said Sweeney. “We don’t want to fight you. We want to work with you to find something that works for everybody.”

During the 2017 session, a bill (HB1802) that would have prohibited tethering dogs unless the owner was also outside was rejected by a subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.

Now that he’s just signatures away from his goal of 10,000, Sweeney hopes to show the support to lawmakers — including that same subcommittee — and get a bill introduced for the next session.

To view the petition, click HERE.

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