Animal shelter urges pet winter safety, provides resources

Photo by Ehren Wynder

The Kent County Animal Shelter (KCAS) is urging pet owners and community members to protect animals from dangerously cold winter temperatures.

The shelter recently released a video providing special care tips to keep pets safe during the winter months and said it is prepared to investigate all reports of animal neglect throughout winter.

“The best place for our pets is in our home next to us, but we know that is not always possible. We encourage all pet owners to take appropriate steps to protect those animals that may be left outside for long stretches of time,” said Angela Hollinshead, division director for KCAS. “Many pets are not equipped to handle the effects of cold temperatures, so we want to remind pet owners of their responsibilities to care for them during the winter.”

Though Michigan law does not prohibit dogs from being left outside in the cold, it does require access to adequate shelter, fresh water and dry bedding for outside dogs according to Michigan Public Act 452 of 2018. Shelter requirements for livestock also are addressed in the statute.

KCAS also offered suggestions for free-roaming or community cats, saying residents should be mindful of them as well, though typically Michigan law does not directly address them. It notes though cats are well-adapted for living in colder climates, they benefit greatly from having access to winter shelter. An instructional video for creating a simple, cold weather cat shelter is available on the community resources page of the KCAS website.

“Michigan winters are certainly beautiful but can be dangerous for some animals if they do not have appropriate resources. We encourage pet owners to watch our educational video and learn about these dangers, so your pets are safe and happy this winter,” Hollinshead said. “If you cannot keep your pet indoors and need resources, we urge residents to reach out to the KCAS to see how we can help.”

Residents are encouraged to call KCAS at (616) 632-7300 if they notice an animal being kept outside for an extended period without adequate shelter, water and bedding.

Some cold weather requirements in state statute include:

  • Maintain adequate shelter, which can be one or more of the following:
    • Inside the owners’ home
    • An enclosure or shelter with at least three sides and a roof that is appropriate for the size and breed of the dog
    • A structure, including a garage, barn or shed that is sufficiently insulated and ventilated to protect the dog from exposure to extreme temperatures, or if not sufficiently insulated and ventilated, contains a doghouse inside the structure
    • Structures or natural features such as trees or topography for livestock
  • Provide dry bedding, such as straw, when the temperature is or predicted to be below freezing. Avoid using blankets or cloth bedding, as these materials likely will get wet and freeze.
  • Provide water that is safe to drink and suitable for the age and species of the animal. Owners are encouraged to check every few hours to ensure the water is not frozen.

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