DETROIT (WXYZ) - The brutal cold weather blasting the Detroit area is causing the tragic deaths of pets left outdoors.
The Michigan Humane Society says investigators have responded to an extremely high number of cold weather related calls that in many cases ended with devastating results for families.
“The Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Investigation team picked up four dead dogs this weekend – they were someone’s pets, yet they suffered outside and slowly died due to frozen water bowls, too little food, and inadequate shelter to withstand the elements,” said Chief Cruelty Investigator Debby MacDonald.
“These dogs were chained up and basically forgotten while their owners lived and slept comfortably inside. Several potential felony cases on behalf of these animal victims are being investigated as a result," said MacDonald.
The Michigan Humane Society is strongly urging pet owners to keep animals indoors all year.
However, during severe weather, investigtors say the decision should be mandatory because it is often the difference between life and death for the animal.
People who fail to do this may find themselves facing charges for animal cruelty.
Failing to provide adequate care for an animal can result in a sentence of up to 93 days in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, community service, and loss of pet ownership.
However, in more extreme cases, prosecutors may file felony charges which can carry a penalty of up to four years in jail.
The Humane Society says if pets have to be left outdoors for any length of time, Michigan law requires pet owners to provide them with adequate shelter, food and water. However, during severe weather, sometimes even these provisions are not enough – especially if the dog is very young, old, ill, small, underweight or has a short coat. Most dogs living outside fall into one or two or more of these categories.
Even if they have a well-built, slant-roofed, insulated doghouse filled with straw bedding, small or short-haired dogs should be brought inside when the temperature falls to 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Larger, thick-coated breeds may remain outside, with adequate shelter, until the temperature drops to around 0 degrees. Precipitation and wind chills should also be considered.
“There is a misconception that because dogs have coats, they can be kept outside year-round, without a thought given to weather conditions,” added MacDonald. “We want to make it clear that this is not acceptable and pet owners will be held accountable for making sure their pets are protected. If not, a pet may pay the price with his life.”
If a dog is shivering, curling up into a tight ball, or attempting to dig a “bed” in the snow, he is probably too cold to remain outdoors. If he is extremely cold to the touch or the paws, ears or tail tip have turned bright red, he may be showing signs of frostbite. The pet should be moved to a warmer area and the pet’s veterinarian contacted immediately.
Clean, dry straw should be provided for bedding rather than rugs or towels, since linens absorb moisture and freeze in cold weather. The MHS Detroit Center for Animal Care, located at 7401 Chrysler Drive, provides free straw available for pickup by pet owners Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is no need to call ahead.
To report pets left outside without proper provisions in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park, call the Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Hotline at (313) 872-3401. A confidential message can be left 24 hours a day. In other cities, animal cruelty should be reported to the local animal control or police.
“Beyond the legal ramifications, this boils down to doing what is right,” said MacDonald. “Acting in the best interest of our pets is a responsibility we take on as their owners.”
To help the Michigan Humane Society rescue and care for animals this winter, donations can be made online by clicking on the link or by calling 1-866-MHUMANE, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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