Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 28, 2014

Pets in the cold: Proper shelter makes difference

ASHLAND — Icy winds have you chilled to the bone? Well, you’re not alone.

Your pets also need shelter from the bitterly cold temperatures.

And while bringing your pet inside is not always the most practical solution for winter care, answers for keeping your pet warm outside can still be found.

Boyd County Animal Shelter supervisor Paul Helton said a few common-sense measures can protect pets that can’t be brought inside.

“It’s always good to check on your animals, large or small, that are outside in the weather on regular basis,” Helton said. “Just use good common sense. Honestly, if the wind’s blowing too cold for you to stand out there for a few hours, it’s probably too cold for your pooch, too.”

He said the most important part of winter care for outdoor pets lies in the food and drink trays and making sure their water doesn’t freeze.

“Even extra food helps generate heat for animals,” Helton said, specifying this is most beneficial for outdoor dogs to keep up their energy and warmth. Overfeeding an indoor pet that is not particularly active in the winter can cause it to become overweight, according to tips from wikihow.com.

After food and water is taken care of, the next critical element for pet care is providing proper shelter. Helton said the bitter wind chill causes the biggest problems and recommended “adequate” shelter, which he defined as one having a roof, walls and warming element, such as straw or blankets.

However, fancy blankets and pillows are not always the best solution when pets are exposed to water or melting ice or snow, Helton said. He added blankets and pillows can lose their insulation when wet, whereas straw does not.

“You may be one of those owners who wants to give their pet the best and think straw is gross compared to nice, fancy pillows, but when pillows get wet, they’re ineffective,” he said. “They turn into an ice block.”

The county’s animal control officers enforce safety laws entrenched in certain ordinances. With that, Helton reminded residents they are not necessarily required to bring pets indoors, but they are required to provide “protection from the weather.”

When this law is not adhered to, shelter officials have the power to remove animals from the owners’ property and apply appropriate charges of animal abuse, Helton said.

He said animal control received a number of calls during the first cold snap requesting the rescue of animals left outside tied to porches, but it has only had a few complaints during this week’s freeze. But Helton said so far, nobody has been charged with animal abuse because of weather.

For livestock owners, Helton recommended providing plenty of hay and straw for horses and cattle along with access to clean, unfrozen water sources.

Find more tips for winter pet care at ASPCA.org, humanesociety.org/animals or weather.com.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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