It’s the winter season and the time of year that many pet owners misunderstand their pet’s ability to endure cold temperatures and conditions. Just as dogs, cats and other animals can be severely affected by hot weather, they can equally perish in cold weather as well. During the snow and cold weather this past month, several dogs — many of them under one year old — were left out by owners and froze to death. But even in shorter durations in freezing cold can be very damaging for pets. They are as susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia and other issues as humans are.
Many are very cautious about their own pets, but may see animals that are left outside by neighbors or within their communities. If you see someone leaving their dog, cat or other animal outdoors for longer than 15-20 minutes, you can help by alerting authorities to the animal immediately. Here’s how you can help:
- Contact the police from your cell or home phone and report the situation. Do not ever try to rescue or approach an owner about the situation to ensure both your and the animal’s safety. If the police can not help, they will direct you to an organization that can.
- Obtain as many details as possible — time of day, location/address, where the animal can be found, last time you saw someone enter or exit the home/location, if the animal has food or water, if it has been fed/watered and if not how long since you last seen someone tend to it, how long it has been outdoors and what type of shelter is being provided. All of this can not only help the police or rescue organization in locating and rescuing the animal, but also in making a case for its seizure and hold to help protect it from future issues.
- Share the story. In many cases, the police may be slow to support checking on or rescuing the animal. In this instance, consider animal control or a rescue organization, which are more experienced in helping animals in bad situations including encouraging the animal’s release by its owner.
- Know the facts. Animals of any kind are not “okay” when left outdoors in bad weather of any kind, even though they’re animals, have fur, etc. Frostbite and other issues can set in as quickly with a dog, cat or other animal as humans. Never assume somebody else will call for help. If more than one person does, all the better.
In most cases, it is a situation where the pet owner is being negligent or inconsiderate of their animal, but sometimes, pet owners are not aware of the facts about their animal and cold weather. Or, they may be experiencing some financial struggle where caring for their pet is challenging. If you think a family might be in need of help with caring for their pet, or providing shelter for it in the winter months, offer to help through the rescue organization or police assisting the animal.
Most of all, do something to help! Animals in need often can’t help themselves and are 100% reliant on humans to provide for their needs and care, including in extreme weather situations or situations of abuse or neglect.