BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Protecting pets from abuse is driving a potential change in the animal cruelty laws in Baltimore County.

It targets outright physical abuse, as well as cases of neglect.

It was triggered by an incident last December in Arbutus when a dog named Oscar was seen out in freezing weather. On a social media site, a neighbor posted: “poor guy has been moaning and basically crying for help since 2 a.m. this morning and the owner won’t bring him in.”

It hit a nerve in the community.

“I represent Arbutus and unfortunately we had a dog named Oscar that we think froze to death,” says Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk.

That hasn’t been proven. Animal control officers never found a dead dog at the home. But the incident prompted Quirk to co-sponsor a bill.

“We don’t want pets to be outside in extreme weather,” he says.

Specifically, for no longer than 30 minutes in freezing weather, or any day temperatures top 90 degrees.

According to Quirk, “this law is really designed for people that really aren’t taking good care of their cats and dogs.”

The bill also brings a change in law enforcement, moving investigations from animal control to a specialized animal abuse unit in the police department. The team is expected to be running by the end of March.

“Makes a big difference,” says Quirk. “Because a police officer knocking on someone’s door is going to get a lot of attention really quickly.”

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