Pets must be protected from extreme cold

Pets must be protected from extreme cold

The Issue: The recent run of sub-zero temperatures is dangerous for pets.

Our View: Although there’s a law to protect pets, it doesn’t seem to go far enough.

CARLINVILLE (Jan. 4, 2018) – While there are plenty of people who enjoy a snowy and cold winter, there comes a point when sub-zero temperatures, especially over an extended period of time, become miserable, especially for pets left out in the cold.

Back in 2016, an Illinois law went into effect designed to protect pets from being left out in extreme temperatures. Even though the law sounds good on the surface, there are loop holes that allow pet owners to leave their pets outdoors, even when temperatures are extremely low.

Even though cold winters are nothing new to mid-Illinois, it’s unusual to experience more than just a couple of consecutive days of such low temperatures. The recent cold snap has prompted concerned citizens to pick up the phone and report pet owners who leave their animals out for extended periods in such extreme weather to local law enforcement. Unfortunately, while the law states dogs are required to have food, drinkable water and shelter, there’s nothing requiring the shelter to have heat. In fact, as long as the shelter has at least three walls and a roof, it’s considered suitable, which means there’s not a lot the police or an animal control officer can do.

While it’s true some dogs are bred to handle extremely cold temperatures, most are not. Not all dogs have an undercoat and the ability to generate enough heat to keep them safe in extreme temperatures.

According to the law, owners can’t leave dogs or cats exposed to extreme temperatures to the extent that the animal is injured or killed. That’s all well and good except it doesn’t allow for action to be taken before a pet is injured. Since the law doesn’t provide any guidelines with regard to temperatures, there isn’t really much law enforcement can do to protect the animal from injury since action can only be taken after the fact when food, drinkable water and a basic shelter is in place. While water quickly freezes in this weather, heated water dishes are available.

The law doesn’t account for the size of the shelter. As the law reads, an open shed or garage is adequate for the animal, but doesn’t take into account the breed type or the fact that large buildings like that don’t hold heat, especially when only three walls are required. While straw or bedding materials help an animal retain heat, those items are not required by law.

Pet owners need to step up and take responsibility for their dogs and cats in extreme weather and not use loop holes in the law to justify neglect. There comes a point when the temperature falls near or below zero pets should be brought indoors.