Volunteer group finds growing number of pets frozen to death
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
By KAREN WORKMAN
Members of the Animal Care Network are advising people to bring their pets indoors after finding 15 dogs and four cats that have died because of the cold weather.
“We don’t understand it. We’ll never understand it,” said Pam Porteous, manager for Animal Care Network. “If you couldn’t keep these dogs or you couldn’t feed them, call somebody. Call us — we pick them up for free.”
Volunteers for the organization have found some of the pets frozen to death while others, battling extreme hypothermia and frost bite, had to be euthanized because of their injuries.
Members of the Animal Care Network have long been going into Pontiac neighborhoods and helping pet owners in need. They’ll pick up strays, deliver food and straw to dog owners who need it at no cost and will even help provide dog houses.
Porteous said this winter’s frigid temperatures have increased the number of frozen pets found in Pontiac. Last winter, a total of nine dogs were found frozen.
“And again, this is only the addresses that we happened upon,” Porteous said. “We try to get to 100 addresses every week, but you figure there’s over 60,000 residences in Pontiac.
“We’re just chipping the iceberg.”
Recently, volunteers picked up a white pit bull with severe frost bite injuries.
“We had to have her put to sleep,” Porteous said. “She was bleeding all over from the frost bite. She couldn’t even walk.”
The outcome isn’t always so dire, though. A brown pit bull Porteous described as “horribly skinny” was saved from the cold and adopted into a new home.
“All the dead dogs we’ve found so far have been pit bulls,” Porteous said. “They have a very thin coat; they’re very sensitive dogs and they just can’t handle this cold weather.
“And if they’re skinny, that’s just certain death.”
Reports of frozen dogs aren’t limited to Pontiac. Two instances from the Lansing area have made headlines recently, including a pit bull mix that was found beaten, hog-tied and left for dead in a frozen lot. The dog was found Wednesday by a man walking his own dog. It survived, but faces a long recovery.
On Friday, another brutalized pit bull was found dead and frozen in a cage at Lansing park. Officials have said there’s no evidence linking the two cases.
A 38-year-old Ohio woman was arrested this week after animal cruelty investigators found one of her dogs, a Shih Tzu, frozen to death in her backyard.
The Animal Care Network’s team in Inkster has found three dead dogs and three dead cats too.
“It’s happening all over,” Porteous said. “In Pontiac, it’s particularly bad right now because there’s no animal control.”
Pontiac nixed its lone animal control officer in 2010. Oakland County’s Animal Control is ready to begin providing services to the city, but needs the city to rescind their animal control ordinances before they can start.
Joanie Toole, administrative supervisor for Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center, said: “We anticipate coming (to Pontiac) in March.”
The county’s Board of Commissioners recently approved increasing funding for its animal control by about $500,000, allowing for six part-time officers and vehicles to be added. The move will allow the county to expand its services to a variety of communities in southern Oakland County who have or may look at eliminating city-based animal control services.
While the Animal Control Network has no official authority to press charges or cease dogs, the county’s animal control officers do.
Toole said when the county receives calls about cruelty cases like frozen dogs, an officer is sent out to investigate. If the allegations are true, the dog owner can be written a cruelty violation.
“And that is a felony,” Toole said.
Local laws mandate that dogs be provided with food, water, an insulated shelter and that any chains or leads be three times the length of the animal from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail.
Porteous said they’re just waiting for the county to begin working in Pontiac, “When they come in, we know that this will change.”
Contact staff writer Karen Workman at (248) 745-4643 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Facebook and @KarenWorkman on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cold weather tips
Local laws require that if dogs are kept outdoors, they must be provided an insulated shelter.
Water bowls need to be replenished at least twice daily, as water freezes in cold temperatures and snow is not sufficient for hydration.
Dog houses should be elevated off the ground to prevent the floor from freezing to the ground.
Dog houses should not be oversized, in order to reduce heat loss. Wind flaps on the dog house door are helpful.
Dry straw can be used to insulate dog houses. Blankets and towels should not be used, as they will get wet and freeze.
Frostbite can affect a pet in a matter of minutes depending on the temperature. Feet, ears and the tail are most susceptible.
An outdoor dog can benefit from receiving extra food in the cold months, as extra weight will help the dog stay warm.
— Courtesy of the Animal Care Network
Animal cruelty tips can be called in to the Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center at 248-391-4102. Animal Care Network volunteers can be reached at 248-678-2756.