If you're going to keep a dog outdoors in the State of Minnesota, there are some specific requirements you need to be aware of. Minnesota State Statute 343.40 addresses the subject:
Minnesota State Statute 343.40 Dog Houses
Subd. 1. In general. A person in charge or control of any dog which is kept outdoors or in an unheated enclosure shall provide the dog with shelter and bedding as prescribed in this section as a minimum.
Subd. 2. Building specifications. The shelter shall include a moisture proof and windproof structure of suitable size to accommodate the dog and allow retention of body heat. It shall be made of durable material with a solid, moisture-proof floor or a floor raised at least two inches from the ground. Between November 1 and March 31 the structure must have a windbreak at the entrance. The structure shall be provided with a sufficient quantity of suitable bedding material consisting of hay, straw, cedar shavings, blankets, or the equivalent, to provide insulation and protection against cold and dampness and promote retention of body heat.
Subd. 3. Shade. Shade from the direct rays of the sun, during the months of June to September shall be provided.
Subd. 4. Farm dogs. In lieu of the requirements of subdivision 2 and 3, a dog kept on a farm may be provided with access to a barn with a sufficient quantity of loose hay or bedding to protect against cold and dampness.
Subd. 5. Zoning. All shelter required by this section shall be subject to all building or zoning regulations of any city, township, county or state.
Subd. 6. Penalty. Whoever violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
In order for your dog's outdoor shelter to be in compliance with this statute, here are the key points you need to understand:
1. A dog house with windows, a leaking roof, slats in the sides, or an open doorway are all in violation.
2. For the dog house to be of 'suitable to size to retain the dog's body heat', the following is recommended: the door height should be at least 3/4 of your pet's shoulder height (from the ground to the neck), the length and width should be at least equal to but not more than 25% larger than the distance between the nose and the base of the tail, and the height of the house should be at least 25% taller and no more than 50% the height of the pet when standing.
3. The dog house floor must be 2 inches above the ground. Standing water or mud do not qualify as ground. If the house stands in water or mud, or leans into water or mud, then it must be relocated to a dry spot, where the entire floor of the house will be 2 inches above dry ground.
4. Between November 1 and March 31, it is not sufficient to have an open doorway on the dog house. A dry piece of carpet may be used, however it is preferable that the dog house be equipped with a clear plastic door to allow the dog the ability to see light, approaching people, and other movement.
5. Dry bedding must be provided within the dog house. Damp or wet bedding is not acceptable.
6. June 1 – September 30, the house must be located in shade, whether man-made or natural.
The statute is very specific and overlooking any one of these steps is a violation of the State Statute. The fine for a petty misdemeanor is approximately $ 300 per occurrence, plus any applicable surcharges.
So let's say you agree to all of the above and have complied on every point ~ you're now ready to house your dog outdoors, right? NO. You are now only in compliance on the minimum standard for the dog house itself. However, there is still State Statute 346.39:
Subd. 1. Food. Dogs and cats must be provided with food of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal growth or the maintenance of body weight. Feed standards shall be those recommended by the National Research Council.
Subd. 2. Water. Dogs and cats must be provided with clean, potable water in sufficient quantity to satisfy the animal's needs or supplied by free choice. Snow or ice is not an adequate water source.
Snow or ice is not an adequate water source. This is possibly the most important item to understand, considering that water left in a bowl may turn to ice in mere minutes on a Minnesota winter's day, and will most certainly freeze overnight. A heated dish with an electric coil is the only practical solution, and these may be purchased for as little as $ 30. However, you will want to investigate various heated bowls, as not all bowls are capable of maintaining the proper temperature when the mercury drops to 30 below zero. Additionally, puddles, and stagnant or dirty water do not qualify as "potable" under the statute.
It is also important to remember that your pet may require additional calories in the winter months as it takes additional energy to keep body temperature regulated. Consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate daily calorie intake your dog will require to spend the winter outdoors.
Even though you provide adequate housing, warm water and food, and despite the fact that your animal has a fur coat, animals that are kept outdoors in freezing temperatures are still at risk for hypothermia and / or frostbite. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, slow or shallow respiration, and lethargy. If you suspect hypothermia, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. If you attempt to warm the animal yourself, it is essential that ONLY the pet's abdomen and thorax are warmed; warming paws, ears, or other extremities first can cause the animal to go into shock.
Frostbite occurs most commonly on ears, paws, and tails. Frostbitten body parts are unlikely to have sensation until they begin to thaw, at which time they may become very red, swollen, and painful. It is not uncommon in Minnesota for dogs and cats to lose ears and tails due to extreme frostbite. Again, treating hypothermia or frostbite should not be attempted at home, these conditions require prompt attention from a veterinarian.
If you must keep your dog outdoors, particularly during extreme temperatures, there is much to consider. Your local humane society will be able to assist with any specific questions you have regarding dog houses, appropriate kennel space, and State statutes. The most important thing to remember is that protecting your pet against the elements is not only humane, it is the law.