Don’t be cold-hearted, let dogs inside!
By Lindsay Pollard-Post
It’s so cold in many parts of the country that car batteries are calling it quits, streets have been transformed into skating rinks because road salt isn’t working and exposed skin can become frostbitten in a matter of minutes. Yet countless dogs — domesticated animals who are suited to curling up in armchairs, not enduring Arctic temperatures — are left outside in this bone-chilling cold 24/7, on chains or in backyard pens. And not all of them will survive.
Every winter, dogs who are left outdoors freeze to death; suffer from frostbitten ears, toes and tails; and die of dehydration or starvation — often while the people who left them out there are just a few steps away inside a cozy, warm house.
Rita was one of those dogs. A police officer reportedly found her dead on Valentine’s Day 2014 inside a pen in Madison, Illinois, that was partially covered with snow and strewn with feces. Her food and water were frozen, there was blood in the pen, her ribs were protruding and she was chained, preventing her from reaching her doghouse. A neighbor testified that she was so concerned about Rita that she had rigged up a system to lower buckets of food and water to the dog and tossed straw into the pen in an attempt to give her some warmth.
Last month, a puppy was found frozen to death inside a plastic igloo-shaped doghouse in Atlantic County, New Jersey, after being left outside in dangerously cold temperatures. Another dog, possibly the puppy’s mother, who was also left outside, was severely malnourished and died after being rushed to a veterinarian. Both dogs’ water bowls were frozen solid.
Dogs’ fur doesn’t provide them with adequate protection from freezing temperatures and biting wind, especially the short fur of dogs like pit bulls, pointers, beagles, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers. Puppies and elderly dogs are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures, and older dogs who have spent many winters outside endure the added misery of aching, arthritic joints.
Many dogs who are chained or penned “out of sight, out of mind” in backyards are deprived of adequate and legally required shelter. They spend the winter shivering in drafty, overturned plastic barrels or huddling under haphazard lean-tos constructed out of old mattresses, rusty car parts or whatever else is lying around the yard. PETA’s fieldworkers routinely deliver sturdy, straw-filled doghouses to dogs who are forced to live like this. A doghouse is no substitute for a warm, loving home, but for these neglected animals, proper shelter often means the difference between life and a painful death.
But the coldest thing that chained and penned dogs have to endure isn’t the temperature —vit’s their owners’ indifference. Companionship means everything to dogs — they are social animals who want and need to be with their human “pack,” have their chins scratched, hear the words “Good dog!” and be loved unconditionally, as they love us. They need to exercise their bodies and minds with long walks, games of fetch and new sights, sounds and smells to explore. Stuck in the backyard like snow shovels, dogs get none of these things that make their lives worth living.
If you have dogs living outside, warm their hearts — and yours — let them inside. If there are chained or penned dogs in your neighborhood, make sure they have proper food, water and shelter — and notify authorities immediately if they don’t or if their lives are in danger. And urge their owners to welcome them inside to be with the rest of the family. There is nothing colder than leaving “man’s best friend” out in the snow.