Contributed by Karoline Gore
Did you know that animal neglect is a misdemeanor in all 50 states (according to the ASPCA)? While there are many extreme examples of this shown in the news and on social media, there are other more subtle ways that animal neglect can occur. One such way is failing to ensure that your dog is safe from the elements when it’s cold outside. If temperatures have dipped below a point where you feel comfortable, chances are that you will need to take additional steps to keep your pup warm as well. Failure to do so can result in frostbite, hypothermia, or even death. Each winter (and any time cold conditions strike), always be sure to follow these tips for keeping your dog warm and comfortable.
Limit time outside when temperatures get cold
Just as it is important to practice dog safety in summer, pet owners must take special measures to keep their dogs safe during harsh Michigan winters. When temperatures become cold enough, it is essential to limit your dog’s time spent outside. How cold is considered to be too cold? Pet experts agree that once temperatures dip below 30 degrees, it is not safe to allow your dog to stay outside for any extended period of time. Once they have relieved themselves outside, bring your dogs back indoors. If you do not have a fenced in area, always keep your dogs on a leash so that they do not wander off in the cold.
Do not leave your dog in your vehicle
Even if your car, truck, or SUV felt warm as you left it, vehicles can quickly act as refrigerators in cold weather. Just as in the summer heat, do not leave your dog in your vehicle when your area is experiencing winter weather conditions. To ensure their safety, it is best to simply leave dogs at home when running errands. If you need to be away for an extended period of time, ask or hire someone to watch them.
Ensure adequate availability of shelter
In addition to being the humane thing to do, ensuring proper shelter from the cold for your dog is the law in Michigan. In specific, the law states that owners must provide the following: “(ii) A doghouse that is an enclosed structure with a roof and of appropriate dimensions for the breed and size of the dog. The doghouse shall have dry bedding when the outdoor temperature is or is predicted to drop below freezing,” or “(iii) A structure, including a garage, barn, or shed, that is sufficiently insulated and ventilated to protect the dog from exposure to extreme temperatures or, if not sufficiently insulated and ventilated, contains a doghouse as provided under subparagraph (ii) that is accessible to the dog.” Failing to adhere to these regulations can not only harm your dog, but they can also land you in legal trouble.
In addition to the tips listed above, be sure to protect your dogs from other elements during the winter. This includes keeping toxic antifreeze out of reach, and protecting their paws from cold pavement and abrasive sidewalk salt.