Pets at risk in colder temperatures

- Fulton County Animal Control officer Jay Fullmer spends a lot of his day behind the wheel, making the rounds, checking on pets. This time of year, the cold can be dangerous.

"There are lots of dogs that are tied up, which is against the law, not fed, not watered,” says Karen Hirsch, public relations director for Lifeline Animal Project, which runs both Fulton and DeKalb Animal Services.

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She says, “Neighbors call in. Sometimes owners move and leave them chained up."

A friendly mastiff mix was picked up, along with two other dogs, during the last cold spell.  Hirsch says that when temperature drops, they get a jump in calls from neighbors worried about pets who might be in danger. That’s what happened during the last cold spell.

"We had three dogs brought in,” Hirsch says. “They had no shelter, no dog house.  And the law requires you have adequate shelter anytime, but it's especially important during cold weather."

Hirsch says Lifeline Animal Project encourages pet owners to bring animals indoors, and not just because of the weather, but for their mental health.

"Dog, especially, are pack animals,” she says.  “They're very social.  And without a group, they get depressed, they get aggressive, they get lonely."

The American Veterinary Medical Association says both dogs and cats should be brought indoors during cold weather.  The veterinarian’s group says it’s a myth animals are more resistant to cold weather because of their fur.

They, just like humans, are prone to frostbite and hypothermia.   Longer-haired and thicker-coated dog breeds, like huskies and other “colder weather” breeds are more tolerant of lower temperatures.  But the AVMA says they, too, should be kept indoors when the temperatures dip below freezing.

"If you cannot bring it in, or keep it in your garage or basement, then you need to have an insulated dog house, that has straw inside it to keep the dog warm, out of the wind, and has a flap over it, the entrance way, a sturdy flap to keep the wind out,” she says.

Hirsch says you can buy straw at your local garden center.  Don’t use hay, she says, which can absorb water and cause your dog to lose body heat more quickly.

If you don't have adequate shelter, Hirsch says, rescues like Lifeline may be able to help.

"We do have a resource where we can help you get a crate,” she says. “Worst case scenario, we can help you get a dog house, or build a pen."

If you need assistance, send an email to

Because if it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet. 

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