Unless you live in a hole in the ground somewhere, I am sure that you have heard that it is going to be very frigid over the next few days. It seems about every year in the winter a post will go around saying that it is illegal to have pets outside when it is under 20 degrees.
Unfortunately, the facts are slightly different. The fact is it’s a city ordinance of Indianapolis and does not apply to the state of Indiana.
In Greene County, Ordinance 91.07 ANIMAL CARE says “Every owner of an animal shall provide his or her animal with proper and adequate food, water, shelter, protection from the weather, medical care and keep his or her animal in a clean, sanitary, healthy manner and not confine the animal so as to be forced to stand, sit or lie down in its own excrement.”
Unfortunately, the phrase “proper and adequate” leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
With that being said, the temperatures will likely drop below 0 degrees, so as pet owners, we need to take responsibility for our own animals and make sure that they are safe in any weather conditions.
If you can bring them inside your home, that is always the best. If you are not able to bring them into your home, consider opening up your garage or creating a shelter that is out of the wind, rain and snow with dry bedding and a heating pad if you have one available. If you can raise the floor a few inches from the ground, or line it with straw, that can help as well.
Also, don’t forget that water bowls will quickly freeze, so make sure to either check and change them often or splurge for a heated bowl. Using plastic water bowls is best because, just like the flagpole scene in A Christmas Story, your pet's tongue could freeze to a metal bowl.
If you have outdoor cats, shelters can quickly and easily be made from plastic totes or old coolers. Cut a small hole and line with bedding or straw. This will give them a safe place to get out of the weather.
If you happen to find an animal outside that has gotten too cold, here are a few tips to remember. First, get it inside and out of the weather. If they are frozen to the ground, pour lukewarm (not hot) water around the animal to free it. Do not submerge the animal in water. Raising the body temperature too fast can be dangerous. Do not feed them. Get them dry. Lastly, get them to a vet as quickly as possible.
It is important to remember though, some breeds of dogs are built for the cold and actually prefer it. The most common of these are huskies, Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernards. You may see these dogs comfortably laying on a pile of snow at 0 degrees while their owners plead for them to return inside and they just refuse.
What to do if you feel an animal is being neglected? The best option, if you can safely do it, is to talk politely to the owner and ask them if you can help. Maybe they are unable to get out and care for the animal or don’t have the resources to buy supplies. Don’t instantly jump to conclusions that they are terrible people; oftentimes a short conversation and an offer of assistance can go a long way. If that method is not an option, the next option is to make a report to local law enforcement. They are already overwhelmed and unequipped to handle animal-related cases but unfortunately, they are the only ones in Greene County authorized to investigate and intervene in potential crimes.
In closing, remember the bitter cold is dangerous to both pets and people, so be safe and be neighborly and help others in need.
For this week’s quote, I thought this was the most fitting: “If you do not like our weather, wait a minute” - Unknown
Kegan is the president of the Greene County Humane Society Board of Directors.