They rely on common sense

Published 10:15 am Friday, December 29, 2017


For eastern North Carolina, Thursday’s cold was brutal. It’s a rare winter’s day when the temperature does not climb above freezing. To avoid the extreme cold, many bundled up in layers, boots, hats, gloves and scarves; others didn’t leave the house at all. It’s a natural response for what’s considered extreme cold in this region.

Unfortunately, pets don’t have the ability to put on their own layers or find their own shelter to ward off the cold. Domestic animals have no choice but to rely on their owners to keep them warm and safe. With extreme cold comes the danger of hypothermia and frostbite for anyone, even a pet with a coat of warm fur. Their footpads, feet, ears and tails can freeze.

Many people have outdoor pets, but when it comes to the cold, those pets need to come inside, even if “inside” is a garage or shed with blankets piled up for warmth.

The state of Illinois has actually passed the Humane Care for Animals Act that addresses the issue. In the act, the code reads, “No owner of a dog or cat that is a companion animal may expose the dog or cat in a manner that places the dog or cat in a life-threatening situation for a prolonged period of time in extreme heat or cold conditions that: 1) results in injury to or death of the animal; or 2) results in hypothermia, hyperthermia, frostbite or similar condition as diagnosed by a doctor of veterinary medicine.”

There is no such exact law in North Carolina, though neglect that causes a pet’s death, such as leaving a pet outside to fend for itself in sub-zero temperatures, would be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. In terms of punishment, a Class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine.

Common sense is the only thing that prevails here. Make those outdoor pets indoor pets for the next week, and report to animal control incidents where animals have been left outside with no means to keep warm.

If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.