Staying safe and warm in the winter is essential for any person, but it is also very important to remember the safety of pet friends during the chilly winter months of the year. Richland County Humane Society supervisor Missy Houghton shared tips on how to provide care to dogs and cats during winter.
“It is recommended that if a dog is left outside, it should be brought indoors if the temperature falls to degrees in the teens. It is usually even colder once the wind chill is factored,” said Houghton.
If a dog is left outside for extended periods of time it can result in serious conditions for the animal which can include hypothermia and frostbite. A dog that is left outdoors must be provided with substantial shelter.
“It is the law to make sure that a dog is provided shelter if it is to remain outdoors. The shelter that is provided must have four sides, a top, and a bottom. Also, inside the shelter it is important to have straw or cedar chips for the animal. Straw and cedar chips can absorb moisture quickly. Do not use any blankets or fabric because if the blanket is to get wet, it is like lying on an ice cube and the animal will freeze,” said Houghton.
‘It is also suggested that flaps be placed over the shelter or dog house to protect it from the wind,” said Houghton.
Richland County Dog Warden Dave Jordan shared that his office receives a number of calls every day about a dog being left outdoors in the cold temperatures.
“We get several calls every day if it is freezing outside. Most of the calls that we respond to do not rise to the level of prosecution,” said Jordan.
Jordan revealed what the level of prosecution could potentially be for a pet owner who neglects their animal. “It depends on the violation, but exposure to the elements results in a second degree misdemeanor. The maximum punishment for that includes 90 days in jail and a $750 fine,” said Jordan.
Providing adequate food and water to dogs and cats in the winter is essential for their well being.
“In order to keep the water fresh, provide the animal with a heated water dish and make sure to increase the amount of food that is provided to the animal because they will burn more calories when they are outside,” said Houghton. Houghton added that the care of cats during the winter months is the same as dogs.
Jordan shared that if a dog is to be left outside it needs to be a type of dog that can handle the elements. “If a dog is outside, then it needs to have the proper coat that can handle the weather elements; but ideally we recommend that all dogs should be kept indoors. If we go out to check on a dog [at a private home] we look at the appearance of it to make sure that it is properly fed and watered. We also look to make sure that shelter is provided that is winter sufficient,” said Jordan.
Houghton described what breeds of dogs should not be left outdoors in the winter.
“Any breed of dog that has short hair should not be left outside. Any dog that is part of the Toy Breed should absolutely not be left outdoors in the winter. Dog breeds of Brachycephalic, which includes dogs that have flat faces, should not be left outside because they can’t breathe as well in the colder temperatures. It is also not good for very old or very young dogs to remain outside in the winter,” said Houghton.
“Dogs with thicker coats such as Huskies, Newfoundland’s, St. Bernard’s, Akita’s, and Great Pyrenees can handle the colder temperatures, but ideally no dog should be left outside when it is cold,” said Houghton.
“If someone feels that an animal is not being properly taken care of, then they can call us. We will come out to the scene and if the animal doesn’t have proper shelter or if it is underweight, we will take the animal for its safety,” said Houghton.
Jordan added what his office is legally allowed to do in certain circumstances.
“It does depend on the scenario, but we can remove a dog if it is in immediate danger of dying. We are looking out for the safety of the animal. If the owner is not home, then we will leave a notice on their door,” said Jordan.