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November 19, 2013 > Ohlone Humane Society Column: Feeling the chill?

Ohlone Humane Society Column: Feeling the chill?

By Nancy Lyon

ItÕs November and the recent cold snap is a heads up for what may be a colder than usual winter on the horizon. Whatever the months ahead bring itÕs a reminder to protect your animal family members from the elements.

When the weather turns foul, here are the basics for keeping them comfortable and out of harmÕs way:

First of all, your cat, dog or other companion animal is just that Ð family Ð and they suffer just as much as other members of your family do from cold, wet and isolation. They are happiest spending time with you indoors, sharing the benefits and warmth of being part of the family circle.

Cold, forgotten and alone -
There is nothing sadder than a lonely and cold ÔpetÕ who can only bark or scratch at the door trying to draw your attention to their plight if left in the backyard or unheated garage during freezing or rainy weather. In fact, if you think their lives must be an outside only existence Ð donÕt even consider getting an animal.

If you are away at work and they will need access to the outdoors, you need to provide either a doggie door or a comfortable dry, draft-free shelter suitable to their size and species until your return.

Special needs -
Senior and very young animals need special consideration in inclement weather. This is doubly important with oldies with creaky joints who suffer when temperatures drop, and with short-coated critters. You might even consider a comfy sweater if they will tolerate it.

Our canine companions and other domesticated animals through their long association with humans no longer have the natural protections Mother Nature has provided for their wild cousins. Even with their furry coats, most no longer have the ability to tolerate severe weather, and exposure. Soaking and chilling results not only in misery, but presents risks to health and life.

Outside regulars -
Free-roaming cats and some wild critters face other dangers when the weather turns foul and they seek sanctuary and warmth in what may seem unlikely places. One of those places may be the still warm engine of your car or even the tire well, and it can be disastrous to them and your car. Take a moment to bang on the hood or take a moment to look under it and scare them off, giving them a chance to leave before starting up the engine. Everyone benefits from this one.

Neglect Ð
What can you do if you see an animal without protection from the elements? First of all, donÕt be reluctant to speak out - it can save an animal from suffering and even death. Animal Services agencies see a marked increase in citizen complaints when weather conditions turn severe, most complaints deal with lack of water, food and adequate shelter from the cold and wet. While laws governing what falls within the acceptable definition of Òadequate shelterÓ vary and are often too loosely interpreted, itÕs always best to contact your local animal services/control and ask for a well-check. Often itÕs a matter of educating people that animals left outside are at risk of hypothermia, illness and even death. It doesnÕt hurt when regulatory agencies mention the risk of criminal charges for non-compliance. Remember to request a follow up report.


For more detailed information on protections for your animal family and wildlife during cold and wet weather, connect with the following Internet websites:

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/protect_pets_winter.html
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/feral_cats/tips/caring_feral_cats_winter.html
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/helping_wildlife_winter.html

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