Cruelty charges pending against the owner of a dog found frozen to death in Toledo last week is a wake-up call to people with pets: Frigid weather can be a killer.
Toledo Area Humane Society officers found the dog curled up outside, on a front porch, according to media reports. A kennel was present on the property but the dog did not have access.
The National Weather Service has forecast below normal temperatures for the month of January. A cold front is bringing a reinforcing shot of cold air and possibly more below zero temperatures.
Fulton County Dog Warden Brian Banister said during extremely cold weather he gets an average of one call per day about animals being left outdoors. That includes dogs, cats, cattle, and horses. Most are unfounded, but Banister’s office always investigates.
“In this type of weather, time is of the essence. If necessary, we will remove animals,” he said. “(But) a lot of them are unfounded. We’ll get to a situation, and it isn’t what it appears.”
Banister said in many cases it’s a simple matter of educating the animal’s owner. The pet may need more bedding or a better shelter to ward off the cold.
However, in a legitimate case of animal cruelty, Banister will present it to County Prosecutor Scott Haselman to determine whether the animal should be removed from the premises. “We’re not going to leave an animal in a situation that’s deadly to it,” he said. “We’re going to check into that because the well-being of that animal is our top priority. Common sense will tell you you can’t leave a cocker spaniel out overnight when it’s 10 below zero.”
Fines for cruelty to animal charges vary, and are issued by the court. This year, every case was successfully handled by Banister’s staff, and no court proceedings were necessary.
“We’ve been able to rectify every situation,” Banister said.
He said while people reporting animal cruelty are well-meaning, the situation or circumstances can sometimes be misleading. He said dog breeds such as huskies and newfoundlands handle cold better than others and actually enjoy basking in the weather.
“They’ll have a beautiful doghouse loaded with straw, and they’ll be laying out in the snow because that’s what they like,” Banister said.
In cases of genuine animal cruelty, the owners are often oblivious to the harm they’re causing, he said.
“I find a lot of times, when we do have a legitimate case of animal cruelty, it’s almost that (the owner is) naive to the situation. They think the dog is okay,” Banister said. “If we educate the people and know the dog will be cared for, there will be no charges.”
Tasha Small, a veterinarian at Pondview Veterinary Clinic in Archbold, said pets should be considered as vulnerable to cold as are humans.
“Think of them like us. If you wouldn’t be out with just a light jacket on, I wouldn’t have them out either,” she said.
Indoor pets should be left out only long enough to relieve themselves, Small said. And owners should remember their younger and older pets are more susceptible to the cold weather.
Outdoor pets can survive the cold with a bit of care, she said. They should always have access to non-frozen water and some type of shelter that includes an insulation barrier, such as straw or a heat lamp. To help keep them toasty, mix warm water with their food.
Small said the biggest mistake people make with their pets is assuming they can handle cold weather better than they’re able.
“They underestimate how cold they can get, and how quickly. They can freeze to death,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.