A Winnipeg animal shelter is sounding the alarm over kittens and puppies that have been abandoned in the cold winter weather.

Four kittens were found last week, trapped inside a bag that was placed near a hotel dumpster, according to the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, which took in the litter.

"They were found in a sealed garbage bag, in this cold," Carla Martinelli-Irvine, who heads up the no-kill anaimal shelter, told CBC News on Wednesday.

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Shelter director Carla Martinelli-Irvine says there are many other cases of pets being abandoned outdoors, which is dangerous in this cold weather. (CBC)

It has been cold in Winnipeg so far this month, with the mercury dipping well below –20 C on some nights.

Martinelli-Irvine said a hotel caretaker found the abandoned litter after hearing noises coming from the tied-up bag by the garbage bin behind the building.

The tiny kittens are recovering, but Martinelli-Irvine said they almost didn't make it.

"This little one's still quite skinny, but they're doing completely better than they were," she said.

"They would have probably lasted another hour, if that, in these temperatures…. It was just horrific."

Martinelli-Irvine said she suspects whoever abandoned the kittens did not want them to survive.

'This story is not unusual'

However, she said there are many other cases of pets being abandoned outdoors, which is dangerous in the cold weather.

"I find it so personally sad that this story is not unusual," she said.

The shelter recently took in eight puppies that were found abandoned under the porch of a man's house.

As well, it rescued a cat that was stuck in a snowbank, nearly frozen to death.

Martinelli-Irvine said people also drop off animals outside the shelter, which she said can be dangerous.

"If nobody sees them, they'll freeze to death," she said.

Martinelli-Irvine said there is no shame in surrendering unwanted pets the right way, by bringing them into the shelter.

"That's what shelters are for," she said. "That's what we're here to do — to help you."

In the meantime, the shelter is looking for caring new owners to adopt the rescued animals.

Two of the four kittens from the hotel litter have already secured new homes.