Animal Tales: How to help an animal neglected in cold weather

Question: What do I do and who do I call if I think an animal is being neglected or needs assistance during the cold winter months?

Answer: Whatcom County winters can be dark, cold, windy and long. The damp and cold weather conditions can cause many issues for both companion animals and livestock.

Whatcom Humane Society animal control officers refer to both city and county animal ordinances and the Revised Code of Washington state when providing assistance to animals in need in our community and investigating cases of possible animal neglect or abuse.

During the winter months, many of the calls WHS animal control receives are from people concerned about animals left outside in the elements. The RCW states that companion animal owners must provide animals with “necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space and medical attention.”

If you are aware of an animal in need or that is kept outdoors without proper shelter from the elements or is lacking proper care, please contact the Whatcom Humane Society Animal Control & Rescue Department at 360-733-2080, ext. 3017, or your local animal control agency for assistance immediately. If you live outside of Whatcom County, WHS can help direct you to the animal control agency in your community.

Below are some winter-time pet care tips that all animal owners should be aware of:

• Don’t leave animals outdoors for extended periods of time. Short-haired, very young and very old animals are extremely susceptible to the elements including rain, sleet, snow and wind.

• If you must leave an animal outdoors, the animal must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough for the animal to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The shelter should be turned to face away from the wind and raised a few inches off the ground.

• The Whatcom Humane Society has a limited number of free doghouses available to pets of residents in need. Doghouses are available at the Whatcom Humane Society facility, 2172 Division St., Bellingham on a first-come, first-serve basis. WHS also accepts donations of new or used dog houses for this program.

• Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes the animal’s energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make sure the water does not freeze.

• Livestock animals need extra grain, hay and a source for fresh water. Wind- and rainproof jackets or blankets should be provided for horses, goats and other animals at risk in the elements. All outdoor livestock should have access to a dry, draft-free shelter.

• Warm engines in parked cars can attract cats and small wildlife that crawl up under the hood to stay warm. Before starting your car, bang on the hood to scare away any animals.

• Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe off your animal’s feet with a damp cloth after walks or outdoor exercise.

• Antifreeze is a deadly poison but has a sweet taste that attracts animals. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach of all domestic and wild animals.