Dogs can’t dress for cold
Tuesday, February 6, 2007 3:00 AM EST
PONTIAC – Temperatures this bone-chilling can cause frostbite in minutes.
They can also kill pets.
Animal rescue volunteers have found five dogs frozen to death in Pontiac in the last month. Three of them, all pit bulls, were discovered dead in their doghouses in the last week.
“No animal should be outside at all, except to do what they need to do, and right back in,” said Marie Skladd, president of the Ferndalebased Animal Care Network.
Network volunteers distribute food, water, straw and doghouses to outdoor animals in Pontiac and Inkster.
With the wind chill, temperatures were in the minus-20 and minus-30 degree range early Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Doghouses and garages just won’t cut it. Even putting an animal temporarily in a basement is a better option, Skladd said, though the ideal is having a companion animal live indoors with its human family.
Network manager Pam Porteous said that if an animal absolutely has to be outside, its doghouse has to be stuffed with insulating straw. Blankets can get wet and freeze.
Warm water should be poured into water dishes. It will freeze quickly, so dishes need to be checked several times a day.
“A lot of people think that they (dogs) can eat snow (to get water), and that’s OK, but it’s not,” Porteous said.
Porteous said animals need to be fed double when it’s this cold. Dogs that are old, thin or young – such as the 8-week-old chow puppy volunteers recently found living tied to a chain outside – are especially vulnerable to having cold weather-related health problems.
Eight chow-mix puppies had a close call recently when a homeless man found them Jan. 26 discarded in a trash bin in Pontiac. He brought them to the Michigan Animal Rescue League shelter, and they’re expected to be put up for adoption at a special event this weekend.
Skladd said she would love to see the owners of the dogs who froze to death face prosecution.
But she said the Animal Care Network has had little success over the past year or so in getting help from the city’s animal control department.
Pontiac is estimated to have thousands of animals living primarily outdoors. Network volunteers making the rounds in recent days have seen many with no food or water.
Skladd said they’ve also seen dogs who aren’t distributing their weight evenly on all four legs. Rather, they rotate their paws to give them temporary breaks from the icy ground.
Marie Skladd and other people visiting homes talk to owners about bringing their pets inside.
Sometimes they listen. And sometimes they don’t, so she’s ready with food and straw.
“We’re just trying right now to make outside animals as comfortable as we can possibly make them,” she said.
The Animal Care Network needs donations of food, straw, doghouses and money to continue its efforts. To help, call the Michigan Animal Adoption Network, of which the Care Network is a division, at (248) 545-5055. People can also call the number to seek help if they see an animal left outside in the cold.
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