Keeping pets safe this winter

By Holly Kline

Hamilton County may not experience another polar vortex this winter but temperatures are dropping and pets that are kept outside need to have proper shelter from the weather. Hamilton County and its cities within have animal ordinances on the books that state, in part, that animals must have shelter from the weather and must have access to shelter 24 hours per day. Indiana state law also requires that animals have shelter during times of extreme heat and cold.

“We tell people to use common sense,” stated Tom Rogers, Hamilton County animal control coordinator when talking about winter shelter for animals. “For example, a short haired dog won’t be able to stand it outside for very long while long haired breeds like huskies will do better.”

He went on to explain that while shelters are not required for livestock, they do need windbreaks. “Horses also need sufficient body fat and they need room to move around and produce body heat,” Rogers said.

Darcie Kurtz is the founder and Vice President of Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside, or F.I.D.O., and she shared that dogs are normally more vulnerable to cold weather than cats.

“Dog houses should be sturdy with just a small opening for the dog to go in and out,” she said.  “The dog house should be half filled with straw so the dog can burrow and the opening should be covered with something like strips of heavy plastic.”

Basements and garages, even if unheated, will provide relief from wind and precipitation and Kurtz said a basement will be warmer than a garage.

“When it gets near freezing outside, bring dogs inside and even a basement that is not heated is much better than being outside all night in the cold,” she stated.

Rogers recommended that people should visit the Indiana State Board of Animal Health website at www.in.gov/boah for more tips and information that is pet-specific.

“During the harsh winter last year we had fewer animal complaints because people were uncomfortable and they realized their animals were, too,” Rogers said. “If the winter is milder this year, people may forget, so it’s good to get people thinking about their outside animals now.”