Video & Blog: Cold Weather and Pets - #ColdKills

Help Pets Left Out During Severe Cold: #ColdKills

I'm veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, and I'd like to talk to you about an important topic today.

A few years ago, I became very concerned about animals being left in hot cars. And so, I made a video to raise awareness. I'm happy to report that the topic of leaving animals or children in hot cars during summer months has become an important one in our society.

I'm also concerned about animals being left outside during severe cold weather. I made a video to raise awareness about just how cold it actually gets in a dog house left outside overnight.

Unlike the hot car video, many of these animals left outside are suffering in silence and out of sight.

I want to be clear: Simply because a dog is left outside during cold weather doesn't mean it's being abused, neglected or being harmed. There are certain breeds who are well acclimatized to these types of conditions. These situations must be judged on a case-by-case basis.

What law enforcement officials need are better guidelines to help. Currently, most local animal ordinances use vague, often unenforceable terms such as “adequate shelter” or “needless suffering.” It's really hard for officers to act on these unspecific guidelines and rules.

That's why we need to come together to make change. I'm not talking about wild animals, livestock, or specialized and working dog breeds that are acclimatized for cold conditions. What concerns me most are animals that are older, younger, smaller, or have preexisting medical conditions that prolonged exposure to severely cold weather will exacerbate.

During cold weather storms, I’m often contacted by animal rescue and advocacy groups asking for my advice on whether or not these conditions are too severe for animals to be left outside. When you begin examining the laws, regulations and ordinances concerning keeping pets outdoors, they’re typically either vague or nonexistent. They don't give specific guidelines for law enforcement officials and they are unable to act or protect animals in potentially harmful conditions.

In many of these cases, a law enforcement official went out, found an animal potentially in danger, but was unable to do anything to help because the laws were not in their favor.

That's why I need your help. I'd like for you to collect pictures, videos, news stories, anything that has to do with animals suffering, being injured, or even dying in the cold weather. I want you to share them on our Facebook page and on Twitter. We're going to compile these verified reports into a database that people who are trying to change animal care ordinances can use moving forward.

Our law enforcement officials and animal protective services officers want to do the right thing, but they are hampered by non-specific animal ordinances and lack of specific animal care guidelines.

My hope is we can come together and show our elected public servants that leaving animals outside during severe weather events is a bigger problem than they may realize. I believe by working together, we can make change.

I want to thank all of the hard-working and dedicated animal advocates, all the law enforcement officers, and animal protective services officials who are working in harsh conditions to help animals survive the severe cold.

Please share this message on social media and use the hash tag: #ColdKills