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Outdoor pets at risk in subfreezing conditions

Published on February 16, 2021

Huntsville Animal Services - Adopt-able dog

When extreme winter weather hits, we often remember to check on family members and homebound residents, but pets are sometimes left out in the cold.

For those wondering if this week’s cold weather is too much for outdoor pets to handle, Huntsville Animal Services Director Dr. Karen Sheppard has a simple rule of thumb to remember: “If you’re cold, they’re cold.”

This week’s subfreezing temperatures puts outdoor pets at serious risk. Owners who don’t have adequate shelter for an outside pet also face being cited by the City.

Section 5-6 of Huntsville’s animal cruelty ordinance states all outdoor animals must be “provided with a structurally sound, moisture-proof and wind-proof shelter large enough to keep the animal reasonably clean and dry.” Sheppard said that means a floor, roof, four sides and a door.

The shelter’s interior should also maintain a temperature of more than 40 degrees and less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Animals should also have fresh, not frozen, water to drink.

Sheppard explained some pets fair better than others during extreme cold. A Siberian Husky, for example, isn’t necessarily at risk. A litter of puppies or kittens, however, won’t survive the subfreezing temperatures and single-digit wind chills.

“We just really want people to bring their dogs inside,” Sheppard said.

Pet shelters vary in cost, but Sheppard said they average about $100. Those with the proper supplies and know-how can even build their own. She said putting down a bale of straw on the floor can help protect outdoor pets from the elements.

Citizens concerned about an animal’s well-being should contact 256-883-3788. On days when Huntsville Animal Services is closed, they should call the Huntsville Police Department’s non-emergency line 256-722-7100. Those outside the Huntsville city limits should call their local police or sheriff’s departments.

“If they call, we’ll start an investigation,” Sheppard said. “These temperatures are dangerous, and it’s a concern for a dog that doesn’t have the right care or the right doghouse.”