Garfield County veterinarians say take care when leaving small animals out in the cold |

Garfield County veterinarians say take care when leaving small animals out in the cold

Pete Fowler
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Veterinarians don’t like to imagine small animals like dogs and cats staying outside in the winter cold.

“They need someplace warm to go. Just leaving them out when it’s cold is not good,” said Julie Schwab, clinic manager of the New Castle Veterinary Clinic.

People must also make sure pets’ drinking water doesn’t freeze if left outside and should probably bring in small animals like dogs or cats at night or provide them a shelter, she said. Some breeds, including huskies or Malamutes, are an exception to that rule, but generally, she said, “We don’t want them outside. They can freeze to death.”

She said there’s no rule of thumb, but common sense should suggest when to bring pets inside.

Local authorities report they’ve received almost no complaints about small animals being left outside in the cold so far this winter.

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said there’s been probably just one call from anyone concerned this winter about small animals like dogs suffering outside in the cold. He said his department deals with those calls on a case-by-case basis.

“It would be an issue of potential for cruelty to animals,” he said. “We would go check on the circumstances and see what the arrangements are.”

It can be harder than people often believe for authorities to deal with what some perceive as cruelty to animals, Wilson said. To prosecute or cite someone for it, there needs to be an obvious and immediate danger to the animal that a veterinarian could attest to.

“Just because someone feels it’s cruelty doesn’t mean that it’s something that legally will meet the standards that we have to meet,” he said. “A person complaining about it does not mean a citation is going to be issued.”

Garfield County community relations deputy Tanny McGinnis said the county has received no more than a few calls about animals being left out in the elements this winter. None of them required any action by authorities after checking on the animals. Calls from people concerned about small pets in the cold used to come in almost daily, McGinnis said, but now there are almost none, in part because of efforts to educate people, she added.

McGinnis said one recent call involved someone concerned about a German shepherd out in the cold in near New Castle. She said the dog had long hair and plenty of food and water and was not in danger.

The county also looks at such calls on a case-by-case basis. The last call that involved actual cruelty to animals in winter conditions was more than a year ago, McGinnis said.

Wilson said the call his department received this winter was about a “poor dog lying out in the snow.” When an officer looked into it, she determined the dog had a dog house but preferred to sleep in the snow, he said.

Summer calls about animals getting left in cars that are too hot have proven to be a greater concern than cold animals in the winter, Wilson said.

Schwab said the New Castle clinic hasn’t heard anything in the way of complaints about animals in the cold, but it’s a good idea to report any concerns.

“I think the best thing is to let people know if they do have concerns, have it checked out,” she said. “That’s what the animal control is there for.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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