BY JANET McAFEE
This week temperatures dropped to record lows with frost warnings issued throughout the Coachella Valley. Our mountain peaks are now tipped with snow. This extremely cold weather is one of many compelling reasons to include your pet as an INSIDE member of your family, as it can cause them suffering, frostbite, hypothermia and death. A dog’s ears, paws, and tail can become so cold from ice crystals causing frostbite that damage the tissue.
Although some dogs are equipped with a warm fur coat and tough paw pads, they are still vulnerable when cold weather sets in. Short-haired, elderly, arthritic, and very young canines are at greater risk of cold weather harm. If it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for Fido and Fluffy!
Consider getting your pup a coat or sweater with a high collar for those time limited trips outdoors. Keep walks short, and be careful to prevent slips and falls on ice. Be careful of antifreeze spills as pets love its sweet taste and will lap it up. Don’t leave pets unattended in parked cars in cold weather as this can also cause hypothermia.
Sometimes pets are relegated to the outdoors when their humans develop allergies, have a new baby, or develop behavior problems. A professional dog trainer can help these situations. People can get lots of free advice online or from an animal welfare organization to solve pet problems, which is preferable to separating it from the humans it loves. Ironically, keeping a dog for home security in the backyard doesn’t do much good when the burglars break into the dwelling where the valuables are kept.
Many small dogs and cats are killed outdoors by prey, including coyotes. Tiny animals can be seized by birds of prey such as hawks and owls. A friend of mine had the horrific experience of hearing her Yorkshire Terrier cry out amidst the flutter of wings, and the dog disappeared in a matter of seconds. Animals can escape and be stolen from back yards, so you are wise to keep them supervised when outdoors, and keep them indoors overnight and when you are not home.
Why do some people believe their pets are perfectly fine outside 24 hours a day? One acquaintance believes it is okay to keep his dog in the back yard, banned from crossing the threshold of the family home. This dog chews up everything in the yard and digs holes from boredom. Some people were raised by parents whose admonishing “Dogs belong outside!” still replays in their decision making. Many believe being outdoors all the time keeps their cat happier. Some folks grew up on family farms where the cats and dogs mingled outdoors with the farm animals and slept in the barn at night. They believe “My family did it this way, and that’s what I do too!”
What can you do if someone you know keeps their dog chained up in the backyard, or confined outdoors in bad weather? These animals often become a neighborhood nuisance with their barking. Under California penal code section 597, it is illegal to tether or chain a dog to a doghouse, post or other structure for longer than 3 hours in a 24 hour time period. Engage your neighbor in a calm conversation, and ask them in a non-accusatory manner why they keep their pet outside. Most people would do better if they had more information, but they will become defensive if you come across as judgmental. Give them a copy of this article. Contact county animal control if the situation is abusive.
Here is the best reason of all for keeping your pet inside the house as a treasured member of the family. He will become your best buddy, loyal, happy to see you when you arrive home, comfort you when you are sick, and communicate without speaking in ways you never imagined.