If you’re experiencing weather anything like what we’ve been having here in the Midwest, you know just how miserable cold, damp, snowy or icy weather can be. Just this week we had some below-zero-degrees wind-chills. While we can turn up the heat or throw extra logs on the fireplace, animals left to the effects of extreme weather can suffer terribly, even die. There are things we can do to prevent this kind of needless suffering. We can help pets and other animals survive the brutal harshness of Winter.
Caring for our own pets
Here in Illinois, a new law took effect as of January 1st, 2016. It is now deemed a Class A misdemeanor if a person knowingly allows their pet to be exposed to extreme weather (either cold or hot), which results in injury or death to the animal. If found guilty, they are subject to a fine of up to $2,500 or up to one year in jail.
While this was intended in particular for those people who perpetually leave their dogs out on a chain, with perhaps at best a flimsy doghouse for shelter, it could apply to anyone who doesn’t ensure their pet is brought in from extreme weather conditions within a reasonable amount of time.
The impetus for the creation of this law was the unfortunate number of dogs that froze to death during last winter’s cold spells.
Is there a similar law where you live? If not, why not start a petition and letter-writing campaign to encourage your representatives to present a bill?
Feral cats and strays
While most of our pets are indoors, all cozy warm during the winter, there are plenty of cats out in our neighborhoods struggling to find food and to keep warm. Most of these cats are feral; they would not do well living indoors with people and other pets. But they still deserve to live a decent life.
TNR (trap/neuter/return) is the most humane approach for managing any feral cat population. There are people who are well-trained in performing TNR, who are able to distinguish between cats that became strays (were once someone’s pet) and the never-socialized ferals. The former can be taken in by rescue organizations and adopted out. The ferals need someone dedicated to providing for them – a feral colony caretaker.
It’s important that communities recognize the value of life of feral cats, that they provide for reasonable accommodations for these colonies and what the caretakers need to do to ensure the cats’ welfare. Laws that don’t discriminate against feral cats or their caretakers are crucial. How does your community treat feral cats?
There are a couple of things you can do for strays and ferals, in addition to donating food and supplies to the caretakers. You can set out some food each morning. In fact, don’t forget the other wildlife in your neighborhood – birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, etc. And a heated water bowl can be a lifesaver when all the other water sources are frozen.
There are easy ways to create warm shelter for the ferals. One way is to create a home out of a plastic storage container. An even easier, quicker way is with a styrofoam cooler, as seen below. Just remember to use straw, not hay, for the insulating material.
For more great tips on ways to help feral cats check out this link at Alley Cat Allies.
Pets of the Homeless
We can find ways to keep our pets happy indoors during inclement weather, and protect them while they are out in it. But there are those less fortunate who struggle merely to survive on the streets – and they share their lives with a beloved pet who is also at the mercy of homelessness and extreme weather.
The recent directive by Governor Cuomo of New York to take homeless people to shelters when the weather gets extreme made me wonder whether all New York shelters allow pets. It has been estimated that while they don’t have a home, as many as 25% of the homeless still own a pet.
And these people would rather sit out in sub-zero temperatures, struggling to keep from freezing to death, than to give up their loyal pal in order to be admitted to a no-pets-allowed shelter. This is where one of my favorite charities comes in…
Pets of the Homeless is an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of the pets of homeless. Providing food and medical care, emergency care, and crates to shelters that allow pets – are some of the ways Pets of the Homeless is making a tremendous difference in the lives of these devoutly loved pets. They are a lifeline of hope and help for those who have so little, yet are blessed in the abundance of love and loyalty of their dear pet.
Do the shelters in your area allow pets? If not, perhaps they would consider a trial run with the help of this organization. And what about the homeless in your area, are they receiving help for their pets?
What other ways can you think of?
There’s quite a bit we can do to help our animal friends survive the dangers of winter, from cleaning up spilled antifreeze, providing food and water, using caution when starting up our cars, driving cautiously on roads near deer habitats, allowing for sheltered areas in our yards…as well as the above-mentioned ideas for pets.