How to keep pets safe during winter weather


Lonely Australian shepherd puppy freezing on the street while snowing. Portrait of unhappy dog outside in cold winter snow. (courtesy: Getty)

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CLEVELAND — As we prepare for a major winter storm, it’s important to remember to keep our pets safe and warm.

The Humane Society reports that there are five ways to protect pets during winter weather:


    Cats and dogs should not be left outside, even if they are accustomed to roaming around. Dogs enjoy walks and exercise, but should be kept inside otherwise.


Windchill can threaten your pet’s life as their exposed skin (noses, ears, paw pads) are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.  Short-haired dogs typically enjoy wearing sweaters during extreme cold.


    Rock salt and other ice-melting chemicals can cause irritation to your pet’s paws and their mouth if they lick their paws.  You should wipe down their feet after adventures outside.


    Wipe up any poison spills, such as antifreeze or household chemicals, as well as rock salt.  These can cause harm to your pet if consumed.


Outdoor animals need protection, just like your family’s pet. Cars are often a hazard to small animals during winter as their warm engines attract cats and wildlife. They often hide inside car hoods, so it is advised to bang on your hood before starting your engine.  You can also make a simple cat shelter using a plastic tub.

However, the most important thing you can do to protect pets and outdoor animals is SPEAK OUT.  If you encounter a pet left outside during frigid temperatures, politely alert its owner and express your concern.  Often times people do not know how dangerous winter weather can be for animals.

If the owner is uncooperative or unidentifiable contact your local authorities or animal control agency. The Humane Society says to provide evidence and take diligent notes of what you saw, as well as when and where you saw it. These animals are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite and even death, and their owners are at risk of criminal charges.

In fact, Ohio law requires pet owners to give them adequate food, water and shelter.  It also states that it is illegal to leave your pet outdoors in extreme weather.  The law reads in part:

“Impound or confine the companion animal without affording it. during the impoundment or confinement, with access to shelter from heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result of or due to the lack of adequate shelter.”

Humane officers can take pets away from owners who don’t provide their animals with these necessities. Violators could also face fines or jail time.

If you have any questions or need advice regarding pets and winter weather you can contact the Cleveland Animal Protective League at (216) 771-4616.

The Cleveland APL provides shelter to animals relinquished by their guardians, animals that are rescued from abuse or neglect, and stray or abandoned cats.

More on the Cleveland APL, here.

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