Temperatures along the Wasatch Front are plunging well below freezing, and the Humane Society of Utah wants to remind the public of the dangers to animals in such frigid weather.
"Warm-blooded mammals can't survive without adequate protection in the kind of cold weather we're going to be having," said Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah. "If you can't actually keep your animals in the house with the rest of your family or in a basement or garage, then please at least see that they have snug, insulated shelter away from the wind and elevated off the ground."
Farm animals need proper shelter, too, Baierschmidt said.
"Bring horses into the barn," he said. "It's only the reasonable thing to do."
The Humane Society also reminds people to take the following cold-weather precautions with their pets:
Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, cats can freeze, become lost, injured or killed. Cats allowed to stray are exposed to fatal diseases, including rabies. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes crawl under the hoods of cars in an effort to keep warm. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. Always bang loudly on the hood before starting the engine to give the animal a chance to escape.
Pets that are very young, old, ill or short-haired breeds should not be kept outdoors at all.
Animals need extra calories and protein during the winter because they consume more energy just maintaining normal body temperature. Water bowls must be emptied and refilled frequently to keep ice from forming.
Owners of short-haired dog breeds who want them to have outdoor exercise should get the dog a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of the tail on top to the belly underneath. This may seem like a luxury or even a silly affectation, but it's not. For some dogs, it's a vital necessity.
Never let your dog off the leash in snow and ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure they always at least wear ID tags and, preferably, have a microchip.
Antifreeze is extremely attractive to pets and also extremely toxic. All spills should be immediately and thoroughly wiped up.
Thoroughly wipe off your dog's paws, legs and stomach when it comes in after being out in the sleet, snow or ice. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze or other chemicals while licking themselves, and their paw pads may also bleed from injuries caused by elements in the outdoor environment.
Just as you should never leave your pet in the car in the summertime, never leave a dog or cat alone in the car during cold weather. Just as a car acts like an oven in summer, it functions like a refrigerator in winter. The animal can freeze to death.
For more information on cold-weather pet care, call the Humane Society at 801-261-2919.