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Cold temperatures dangerous for pets

Hannon resident Jill Foote-Forsythe has been trying to help her neighbour's dog, Tiger, survive the cold. With the SPCA dealing with a large influx of calls about pets like Tiger being kept outside, she still hasn't seen any action. Advocates say animals need special attention in the cold

Vet: Dogs without a heavy coat shouldn’t be outside for more than five to 10 minutes

Neighbour Jill Foote-Forsythe took this photo of Tiger when she visited him Monday evening to bring water and blankets to keep him warm during the cold snap. (Supplied)

When frigid temperatures like Tuesday’s hit, humans are encouraged to spend most of their time inside and stay warm. But -38 C with the wind chill can also be down right dangerous for pets.

Dogs that do not have a heavy coat or aren’t acclimatized to the cold shouldn’t be outdoors for more than five to 10 minutes at a time, said Dr. Douglas Hall, a veterinarian at the Dundas Animal Hospital.

And if a dog is left outside with the owner nowhere to be found, “you should put a call into the SPCA,” Hall said. “From a good Samaritan stand point, you could bring blankets to warm the dog up or bring warm water to keep the dog hydrated.”

And in fact, cold spells are a busy time for the SPCA.  Sarah Mombourquepte, an SPCA animal protection offices, said her department receives a “large influx of calls” from concerned people about animals being kept outside when the cold weather hits.

Jill Foote-Forsythe, is one of those callers and also one of those good Samaritans. She has been risking the anger of her neighbour, entering onto the property next door to tend to a cold dog left outdoors.

She has been taking care of Tiger, a Portuguese Fila left outside overnight Monday when the temperatures felt like 30 below.

Foote-Forsythe said Tiger is the guard dog for a construction company that abuts her property in Hannon.

“He lives strictly outside, 24/7,” she said. “He has a plywood house and he’s absolutely frozen.”

Upon looking at pictures of the breed, Dr. Hall said despite the dog’s large size, it has a short coat.

“I don’t think this breed should be left out,” he said.

Foote-Forsythe said she’s called the local SPCA, Hamilton Police and the city’s animal control several times leading up to Tuesday’s cold snap, but hasn’t got much of a response yet.

The Hamilton-Burlington SPCA confirmed there is an investigator working on this case, however that investigator was not in the office at the time of CBC’s call.

On Monday night, Foote-Forsythe visited Tiger and found him shivering, with snow inside his roughly 3 by 2.5 foot dog house, and no food or water, she said. She left him blankets to keep warm overnight.

She returned around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, and found him “shivering uncontrollably.” His water was frozen solid.

“He didn’t even want to come out,” she said. “He came to me and stuck to me like glue. So I bundled him up [in a warm blanket].”

Foote-Forsythe said Tiger has lived on the property for about two years, since he was about 8 weeks old. 

“I’ll go [visit him] and he’ll be skin and bones... in a bad condition,” she said, adding he spends his days chained up.

Her attempts to speak to Tiger’s owner have been futile, she said. She either gets no response or something along the lines of “stay off my property.”

“I know I’m not supposed to trespass but I can’t leave him...not with my conscience,” she said.

According to the SPCA, provincial law states that dogs are allowed to live outdoors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“They need to have shelter that is appropriate and adequate for the breed type,” Mombourquepte said. “Body mass, coats are all different... it’s all dependent on the individual breed.”

For all breeds, the shelter must be dry and the right size for the dog to conserve body heat, she said. A big shed, for example, is not adequate because it would likely be far too large for any body heat to bounce back to the dog.

“A good dog house is big enough for the dog to stretch and lie down comfortably,” Mombourquepte said, “and has [insulation].”

Again, an appropriate size is dependent on the breed, she said. The dog also should have “adequate and appropriate food and water.”

“That means the dog is getting fed to maintain an adequate body weight for that dog and water to keep up proper hydration,” she said.

In severe cold or very warm temperatures, the dog might need more water than normal to keep hydrated, she said. 

CBC Hamilton was not able to contact the owner of the company through his office and cell phone. 

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