Keep pets in mind when cold returns

Milder temperatures have returned in recent days, but local officials are asking residents to take extra precautions when frigid weather returns to make sure their four-footed family members are safe and warm.

Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said a good rule of thumb with animals is to make sure they have shelter as well as food and water.

?In the wild, (animals) will find shelter out of the cold and wind, so I think we need to provide that, too,? he said. ?If we are going to take control of these animals, we need to provide those essentials.?

Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning said pets are just as susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite as humans.

?It goes by the dog,? Kinning said. ?How long is the dog?s hair, what is the breed, and does the dog get exercise? If the elements are too severe, then it isn?t good for them.?

Kinning said the city of Hillsboro has a statute against cruelty to animals.

?Along with providing fresh, unfrozen water, it is important to have a doghouse for them that is kept off the ground so it doesn?t lose heat to the ground,? he said.

Kinning also recommended filling the doghouse with hay or blankets, especially if it isn?t insulated.

If dogs are kept in a pen, Kinning suggested the pen have a roof and tarp around the sides so wind doesn?t blow into the pen

Marion Police Chief Tyler Mermis said if a person is cold outside, then their pet is cold outside, too.

?Some people might think their animal is just a dog or just a pet, but what they don?t understand is those pets in extreme cold snaps suffer, too,? he said. ?The best thing for any pet owner to do is buy the proper shelter or keep an animal inside when it is cold.?

Mermis said he gets more calls during the summer months than in the winter, but if someone sees a pet suffering, he encourages the person to call his office.

?Some people will leave their pets outside when they go to work, and it might be only 7 degrees,? he said. ?How miserable that is for an animal.?

Mermis, who described himself as a pet lover, said he keeps his dog inside when it?s very cold outside.

No matter what the temperature is, all three law enforcement officials agreed that windchill can threaten a pet?s life.

In addition, exposed skin on their noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage, Kinning added.

In Goessel, City Clerk Jennifer Whitehead said she isn?t aware of problems with pets being mistreated.

?My suggestion for citizens would be if it is at all possible, keep pets inside and only let them out when necessary,? she said. ?If someone has outdoor pets they absolutely can?t have inside, then they need to provide them with proper shelter and some kind of bedding to help keep them warm.?

Some companies sell heaters that would help. Old blankets that are no longer being used can also make a big difference.

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