Don't neglect your pets in cold
They might need extra care
Monday, January 27, 2014 10:00 AM
Outdoor pets and animals will need extra attention as the Midwest's marathon cold snap marches on.
Madison-Jefferson County Animal Shelter Director Jenny Slover said smaller animals and older pets need the most care in the bitter cold conditions.
"Puppies and seniors need more attention than anybody else," Slover said.
Slover said if an animal has water, food and shelter outdoors it should be kept safe from the elements, though pet owners can take additional steps to ensure their pet's safety.
Slover said outdoor animals should have more food in the winter because their bodies are burning more calories to keep warm. Outdoor water bowls should be checked often to make sure they do not freeze, Slover said.
The shelter recommends using a deep plastic bowl - which absorbs more solar heat - instead of a metal or ceramic dish for an animal's water source.
For bedding, Slover said straw inside an dog house or barn is "by far the best insulation" for outdoor animals.
"For the most part, if they have a dog house full of straw and food and water, they're fine," she said.
There are different care methods for different types of animals, based on age, weight, size and breeds.
A short-haired, smaller pet is more likely to fall victim to the cold conditions, while some long-haired breeds such as a husky, are more acclimated to the elements.
Slover suggests shorter walks for dogs with less hair and even putting clothes on the animals that are used to staying indoors.
For those who have outdoor cats, Slover said the animals have a tendency to crawl into a car's engine or wheel wall for warmth. She advised residents to knock on the hood of the vehicle a few times to scare away any animals before starting the engine.
During the winter months, Slover said the shelter often fields calls from concerned residents about pets being housed outdoors. While the shelter will care for animals, the police and sheriff's department handle all animal control calls. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department can be reached at (812) 265-2648, while the Madison Police Department can be reached at (812) 265-3347.
Before calling the authorities, Slover said people should first consider what justifies animal neglect. For instance, she said housing an animal outside in the winter does not classify as neglect if the animal has shelter, food and water and if its leash is more than three times its body length.
A list of tips on winter pet care can be found on the Humane Society of the United States website, http://www.humanesociety.org.