As the end of the year draws near, the weather gets colder and colder. Some parts of California have already reached temperatures that make most people choose to stay indoors. As the temperatures drop, it is important for everyone to stay warm for their own health and safety.
While everyone hurries to bundle up for the cold weather, they also need to consider their pets as well. While most pets have fur coats to help keep them warm, they aren’t impervious to the cold. Just like the cold will eventually worm its way through a jacket, it will do the same to fur. Plus, there is the fact that not all animals are built to tolerate all kinds of weather. Due to this, it is important for pet owners to consider their furry companions this winter.
Keeping Pets Warm This Winter
There are all sorts of things that pet owners need to consider when winter rolls around each year. Here are some things to think about when the temperatures start to drop:
- Adjust meals to account for changes in activity. If a dog spends more time indoors and is less active in winter, then they don’t need as much food. However, if they go out a lot and are more active, then they need more food. Plus, staying warm in the cold consumes energy, so that alone means needing more food.
- Bring pets inside. While they may have fur, a lot of pets are just as susceptible of getting frostbite and hypothermia as people are. Think of their fur as permanent jackets. Animal can resist the cold for a little bit like people can, but eventually they need to come inside too.
- Check under the hood of your car before starting it. Outdoor cats are always looking for warm places to hide, and a warm engine can be a nice place to curl up for a nap. Unfortunately, if someone comes by and starts the car up again while the cat is still there, disaster can occur.
- Increase time between baths. Just like people, pets can suffer from dry skin, which can be dried out from baths. Since putting moisturizer on with all of that fur is a bit difficult, it is best to simply reduce the number of baths pets get in winter to help prevent the skin from drying out in the first place.
- Keep dogs on leashes near bodies of water. Letting a dog off their leash near water is how the dog can end up running across the ice and falling in.
- Keep walks shorter. Reducing the lengths of walks can reduce the exposure to the cold and help prevent any cold related health risks.
- Provide jackets for pets. Some animals simply don’t have the fur to deal with cold or snow. Think of Chihuahuas and their short fur.
- Provide proper shelter. The best place for pets to be in winter is indoors with their owner. However, if that is not possible, make sure outdoor pets have adequate shelter from the cold. The floor of the shelter should be raised above the ground, the door should face away from the wind, and a heavy burlap or plastic sheet should cover the door. The inside should be large enough for the animal to lay down comfortably, but small enough to conserve heat, and have a layer of sawdust or straw to lay on.
- Take care of your dog’s paws. Wipe their paws after walks near roads that have been salted. The salt can get on the pup’s paws and make him/her sick after licking it off. Try putting booties on dogs’ paws to both keep them warm and clean.
Consequences of Animal Abuse
California Penal Code (PC) 597 makes it illegal for a person to kill, harm, neglect, or overwork an animal. This includes failing to protect an animal from severe weather. Leaving a pet out in the cold is a type of animal abuse, since the owner is neglecting the health and safety of the critter. As such, if a person doesn’t take the time to care for their pet, they can face legal consequences.
If a person is charged with PC 597, they can face either misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the facts of the crime and the person’s criminal record. As a misdemeanor, a person faces:
- Up to 1 year in county jail.
- A max fine of $20,000.
When charged as a felony, a person faces:
- 16 months, 2 year, or 3 years in state prison.
- A max fine of $20,000.
Some additional consequences for being charged with animal abuse, regardless of misdemeanor or felony, can include:
- Having the animal removed from the person’s care.
- Paying for the animal’s housing costs during the trial period.
- Mandatory counseling.
- An additional year in prison if the abuse involved a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Be Considerate of Animals This Winter
For some people, the cold weather can be fun, in short doses. The same is often true for animals. The cold doesn’t mean that animals need to be inside 24/7 until spring, but they should definitely spend more time indoors rather than outside.
Something else to consider, is this saying “If you’re cold, they’re cold. Bring them inside.” While this is true for most animals, there are a few breeds out there that are better built for cold and snow. One dog breed that springs to mind is huskies. They often prefer colder weather, and with their stubborn attitudes, they may resist their owner when it comes time to go back inside. Basically, before reporting anyone for animal abuse, make sure the parent isn’t out there trying to coax the stubborn animal back inside.
What do you think of California’s take on animal abuse? Are the consequences too steep, or are they well deserved? Do you have any additional winter safety tips for pet owners that aren’t on this list? If so, share them in the comments down below and help other pet owners keep their critters safe this winter.