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Keeping animals safe and content during winter months

November 14, 2018

Although their different genetic makeups are readily apparent, household pets and owners are both acutely aware of temperature shifts.

When temperatures spike in the summer and plummet in the winter, people plan accordingly. From bundling up to layering down, humans have the ability to ensure that they stay safe and comfortable during times of intense heat and frigid cold.

Animals, on the other hand, don’t have this luxury. That’s why it’s vital for pet owners to keep their furry friends’ best interest at heart during this time of the year, especially if a dog or cat remains predominantly outside, said Jan Berry, manager of Paws and Claws Adoption Center in Columbus, 2124 13th St.

With winter weather starting to crash down upon the area, Berry said that it’s advisable to limit pets’ exposure to the elements. This includes time spent outside for restroom breaks and recreational activities.

“When the streets get cold and icy and you have a house dog, they shouldn’t be out for more than 15 minutes because their feet will freeze because they aren’t used to it,” Berry said. “You also have to look out (while walking a dog) because you don’t know what kind of deicer is being used on the sidewalks and some of those can be toxic to a dog if they get home and lick off their feet.”

Berry said that if an animal – generally a dog – is required to stay outside during the cold months, that its owner has the responsibility of making sure the dog is safe. This means having a heated water bowl and a well-insulated doghouse obstructed from the ragged winds that whip through the Midwest during this time of year.

“If you have a dog house, it’s better to use straw or hay for bedding,” she said, “because if you use blankets for bedding and they get wet they will freeze up and then the dog is basically laying on an ice cube … We also have those cold north winds so if you can, you should face the house toward the south and then the dog will get some of that good sun, too.”

She added that straw bales can be purchased to line the outside of dog houses to act as a source of insulation.

Although many pet owners keep their animals indoors, there’s still a big chunk of people who don’t in rural communities, Berry said.

“But their dogs mean just as much to them as the people who live in town, so a lot of times they have a dog house or a barn for their cats and dogs to get warm in,” she said, referring to the farming community. “And using that loose straw is also a great way to help keep cats warm.”

As of Monday afternoon, Berry said that her facility is housing 17 dogs and 45 cats. But, she noted that she’s reached capacity during the warmer months caging 43 dogs and 65 cats.

Animal numbers generally drop at the shelter from November through April, she said, adding that she’s kept a monthly log of numbers for several years.

“My theory is really just that people keep their animals inside a lot more during the winter,” she said. “Because of that, there’s just less of a chance that they will have the chance to be out there for a long time with an opportunity to get out.”

It’s a good thing that people are more wary of keeping their pets outside with dropping temperatures, she said.

“They do make coats and boots for dogs, but if it’s too cold for you to want to be out there bundled up then your dog doesn’t want to be out there either.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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