With several months of winter still ahead, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wants to remind readers to keep their pets secure and healthy this season. I addition to the risk to your animal, you could be subject to legal action for failing to shield him or her from harsh winter weather conditions. New Jersey state law 4:22-17 states that any person failing to provide an animal with proper shelter or protection from the weather can be fined $1000 and/or sentenced to six months in jail.
The HSUS offers the following guidelines to make 2005 a happy and safe year for your animal companions.
Don't leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs and all cats are safer indoors except when taken out for exercise. Regardless of the season, shorthaired, very young or old dogs and cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet's life A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog is an outdoor dog, however, he/she must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting the engine.
The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.
Antifreeze is a deadly poison. But it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife and your family.
Whatever the weather, remember that your pet will be safest and happiest at home with you. A little common sense (and a lot of affection) will go a long way toward making this season a comfortable, happy one for both of you!
Nina Austenberg, Director
The Humane Society of the United States