Discussion: When It’s Freezing Out, Bring Your Pets In

My news feed runneth over this week with stories of freezing temperatures and the effect on pets. There are lots of articles talking about state laws and giving recommendations on what to do with pets during extremely cold weather. While obvious exceptions must be made for some animals including feral cats (who can be provided with homemade outdoor shelters) and sled dogs (who are purpose bred for outdoor living as part of their work), the general message should be: Bring your pets indoors. All of us involved in animal advocacy should be repeating this message as a means of education and increasing awareness.

When an ACO in Longview, TX was interviewed about a frozen dog found chained to a fence, he provided this disappointing quote:

“Bring your dogs in when the temperature drops down to these conditions so that you don’t end up with a dead animal. Because if we come out and your animal has died because of the environment that it’s in, if it’s died because it’s frozen, it’s cold, we will file charges,” said Longview animal control officer Chris Kemper.

The message should be “Bring your dogs in,” with no hint from authorities that as long as your pet hasn’t frozen to death, you won’t be charged.

There appears to be some confusion about what state law requires in Texas so I looked it up. A violation of the following is a misdemeanor:

Texas Penal Code: Sec. 42.092. CRUELTY TO NONLIVESTOCK ANIMALS. includes the following:

(7) “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.

(8) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:


(3) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;

In the Longview case, authorities indicated the dog’s owner had failed to provide food, water and shelter while the pet suffered and died. Authorities could have – and should have – intervened before the dog froze to death. Being left on a chain with no food, water or shelter in freezing temperatures appears to qualify under the law as torture and cruelty since most pets could not possibly be maintained in good health under these conditions.  But the ACO’s statement implies that action will only be taken if the pet dies as a result of the torture.

Do better with your messaging, Longview. And definitely do better with your intervention on behalf of suffering pets.

What, if anything, does the law say about providing shelter to animals during the cold in your state?  Are you working to get your state’s cruelty laws amended to better protect animals?  Do you do any advocacy work, such as social media outreach, about bringing pets inside during extreme weather?  What information do you include in your message?

38 thoughts on “Discussion: When It’s Freezing Out, Bring Your Pets In

  1. We just had a case (as in resolved yesterday) here in NY where a breeder was leaving the dogs outside with no adequate shelter. The police said it was fine, the rescue group sued the police saying it wasn’t fine and to follow the law, the government agreed and all but 4 dogs were either put inside or taken by the local SPCA. If they get better shelters they can have the dogs back in 2 weeks, otherwise they will be relinquished to the SPCA. 4 dogs are allowed to be outside because a neighbor felt sorry for them and was able to build 4 shelters. I am hoping that they don’t get enough shelters and the dogs will be released – 90 dogs on an acre seems like too many.

  2. oh brother.. the vets said the dos were fine and then adjusted her comments when she got phone calls threatening her practice..The owners got death threats..common for people on the internet to do..people have threatened to burn their house down and kill them in all sorts of hideous ways.. the “public” harassed the owners and made this into a circus.. Eric Bellows, a wanna be rescuer who is from the failed Rescue Ink series .was pimping for donations. The dogs had shelter,. bedding food and water.. I will be sending money to the owner so he can get his dogs back because we all know what happens when dogs go to “rescue”. He did not have 90 dogs.. and more than 4 were left.. this is exactly how rumors and “mob mentality” starts.. It if frightening. The man has been operating out in the open with proper licensing for over 10 years .. as we know many rescues do not take care of tier dogs .. in fact many end up dead.. I hope his dogs go home where they are accustomed to their houses and mates. I get a bit sick of the “court of the internet” oh and by the way this comes just at a time when a law is trying to be passed concerning dogs.. any connections? you bet .. so many people trying to have five minutes of fame on the backs of dogs and their owners.. as for “bringing them inside” they could go inside any time they pleased and yet they stayed outside probably to see the the commotion was about…. into a dog house with lots of straw bedding and they could go in together.. ever heard of a three dog night.. I hope they get the dogs back

    1. Doug, I’m glad you think you know everything and are so quick to judge that Eric Bellows was just trying to get money out of this situation. Sounds like you are just the same as the rest of the members of the ‘court of the internet’ although you are on the side of the breeders. The shelters those dogs have are just plastic barrels which are not adequately warm for any dog in temps below 50 degrees because they don’t provide decent insulation – or higher than 75 degrees because they don’t allow for proper air circulation in the summer either. That’s all I’m prepared to say about the breeders not providing proper shelter – because those barrels aren’t proper shelter and anyone who says they are lacks a good understanding of how temperature effects metabolism and health (even if they are a vet).

      Yes, the people screaming hatred and death threats are scary, but don’t tell me that you haven’t thought similar things whenever you hear about parents and others hurting children. Humans are judgmental and we all have our opinions. The internet just lets us tell everyone what we think, and provides the illusion of anonymity so more and worse things are said than would actually be done.

      1. sorry Shirley thank you for catching that.. and posting the warning there a couple other photos of both of the dead dogs on that thread That image drove me nuts last night after I went to bed… heartbreaaking

      2. the story says.. the elderly hoarding coupe was evicted… they caged the dogs and called someone to come get them.. there is no shelter , no pound not sure about animal control, but it says the fire dept was called in to cut locks there was food and water dishes in the cages, but who knows how long it took for someone to go check after being called…

  3. I had two feral cats outside during -38 f windchill.

    They had good shelter (had to make a feeding station to keep them out of the wind and off of the snow) with two inch foam insulation and I rotated Snugglesafe heated disks every few hours to make sure they stayed warm.

    Even so, I worried about them terribly. If it weren’t for the fact that I would seriously freak one of them out by trying to bring her in ( extremely trap shy and non-pickupable), I would have done it. As it was, it took days to acclimate her to the feeding station, so planning ahead was a must.

    There were places giving away free straw for outdoor animals…and I can’t help but wonder if that is a kindness that sends the wrong message to some?

      1. Dot, that link doesn’t work for me, I assume because I’m not on Facebook and thus can’t sign in. Would it be possible to make the content public?

      2. Hummm… Shirley… can you help out here? Do you have a way to post the pictures here? do you have the time? I made two different types, same principle. there are 46 photos, but I think just a couple pictures will show how easy it can be done.. let me know, maybe I can write it out….?

      3. Yes, that’s a good site. I’m trying to gather links to step-by-step instructions for a gaming forum I’m on – shelters for winter keep coming up, along with other questions about caring for community cats. I’m beginning to see there’s a real need for basic info for people who just want to do right by the cats in their backyards. I don’t have the knowledge to write it, but I can at least provide links.

      4. my FB link to the shelters has step by step instructions with tools and materials needed. I also saw where yo can use bales of straw hollowed out and wrapped in plastic..

      5. The ones I built are so much easier to build and are cheaper. The largest Styrofoam cooler you can get from Red Losbter for free. Pet Smart/Petco also get their live fish shipped in the x-large Styrofoam cooler, also Free. My area delivery is Thursday My 128 gallon Marine cooler came from the landfill. So many get thrown away every year for a broken handle or a crack. I have asked the guys that work there to keep an eye out for them.
        I really liked the Straw Bale Shelters. Bale is only $2, wrap it with plastic,tie it up with duck tape. Very cheap and it works

  4. I live in Houston. Luckily, it does not freeze often here, but speaking from experience, I can tell you that it is nearly impossible to get authorities to do anything to protect animals. A couple years ago, an email went around from a woman trying to save a couple dogs chained in the back of a house that appeared to be vacant. We heard that the owners came by once in a while, usually at night, to visit the house and sometimes put dogs in the trunk (we are thinking it was some kind of fighting operation).

    These dogs only had a couple barrels for “shelter”. No hay, no blankets. Nothing. One dog had puppies that kept wandering out into the freezing cold mud. The neighbor tried in vain to get the authorities to do something. I spent hours calling all the people that are “supposed” to protect animals. I tried the county sheriff’s office. I was told a sheriff went out there, could see the dogs, but “couldn’t” take the dogs because she couldn’t put them in her car. Then I was told county animal control was called but they were so backed up, that they didn’t know if anyone would make it out there. I told them that it was supposed to freeze that night, but no one was concerned.

    I called the local Houston Humane Society and Houston SPCA who are “supposed” to have officers on staff who investigate cruelty and neglect but after hours of being on hold, or being transferred to someone else, I could not get either of them to send investigators out there.

    I have found that a lot of the time, the authorities don’t even know what the laws says about cruelty to animals, so I have to tell them. Making them actually follow the law, is another thing entirely.

    1. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t send investigators to check out the report. Do we need to use the buzz words so many of these investigators seem to love and just report everything as a suspected “puppy mill” or “hoarding” or what? Responding to reports of animals suffering in the cold is what cruelty investigators are *supposed to do*. Maybe it’s not glamorous work but geez, it’s their job.

      1. Well, we are talking some very high kill “shelters”. Saving lives is not at the top of the list for a lot of the employees there. A lot of the time, the only way to get them to respond is to bring out the TV cameras. Then, they magically run to the “rescue”.

        A former vet tech told me that some of the people who drove the “rescue” vans, would bring injured animals back to the Houston SPCA in the middle of the night, when there was no medical staff there to treat them. She would find injured, suffering animals who had been left there for hours with no treatment. Sometmes they had died while waiting for care that never came from a so called “shelter”. This is an organization that rakes in millions in donations every year because people think that all of the employees care about animals. The truth is that it is just a way for the director to rake in a lot of money from the uninformed animal lovers. It is a HUGE scam. I have pages and pages worth of horror stories about that place and have been trying to get a reporter to cover it, but not having any luck. Seems like they are interested until they find out who it is. Then, they either don’t believe me, or I think they don’t want to out them because they like going to the HSPCA’s galas and social events. It is ridiculous.

      1. db, you are exactly right. Former employees of the Houston SPCA said that, before a big “rescue”, the HSPCA would plan their “marketing”/donation pleas before they planned the rescue. It is all about finding ways to make more money. The animals come last on the list for the leadership there.

        I couldn’t stand to watch Animal Cops when they showed the HSPCA, because I knew most of it was complete BS. Then, I started wondering about the other “shelters” that they showed as well.

  5. Our local animal control (county) let everyone know that they would be confiscating animals outdoors and charging owners with cruelty. Lots of folks called to report animals left outside. They also opened their building for people to drop off animals (if they went to warming centers, etc and couldn’t take them). Haven’t heard the numbers yet but the cruelty officers, volunteers and staff gave up their time to do this. I heard that other counties in MI did much the same thing.

  6. I changed the settings to public, (sorry, thought it already was). You should be able to see the entire album – I have about 13-14 kitties in that colony.

    1. Love your shelters! What kind of winter weather do you get? I’m starting to think that shelters need to be more region-specific (i.e. not one shelter fits all situations).

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