Protecting your pet in the cold

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Wednesday, January 30th, 2019 / News 12 at 11 O'clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's a good time to remember that your pets are affected by cold weather too.

As temperatures drop-- pet owners are being warned to take care of their animals.

Aiken County now has cold weather laws when it comes to keeping your pet outside, and ways you can get a free shelter if you're in need.

During the winter months the county's animal shelter typically sees fewer four-legged friends coming in; but for those that do, it's dangerous.

"If it's too cold for us--it's too cold for them," said the shelter's adoption coordinator Hillary Clark-Kulis.

"This time of year, it's dangerous for those being born if they're not given adequete shelter," she explained.

"You're looking at hypothermia...you are looking at frostbite," added county enforcement officer Bobby Arthurs, who sees it all in the field...firsthand.

"We would prefer all animals--especially our pets-- to live indoors," he told News 12.

But he also said he knows it's just not possible sometimes.

"They're looking for animals that are tethered," he explained when asked what animal control officers are doing to enforce pet safety in the cold.

Aiken County's tethering law says no animals are allowed on chains, but they also must be given shelter deemed "adequate," especially in cold weather.

There's even a section of the code that says you must adjust your pet's shelter based on the weather conditions.

There's a lot to think about for owners when it comes to pets inside. For example, facing a shelter's door away from where the wind is blowing is crucial, according to Arthurs.

"If an animal is sleeping inside of a doghouse and has a solid floor, that way the heat the animal generates cannot escape," he also said.

Solid floors, walls, and bedding are all requirements by law. But, he adds, it's just plain easier and safer to bring man's best friend indoors.

But if you absolutely can't bring a pet inside and cannot purchase a good shelter, they are willing to help.

"We do have donations that are given if you contact animal control...we have doghouses for animals in need," said Clark-Kulis.

Both Clark-Kulis and Arthurs say--for those who don't have the means--they will provide for you, so there's no excuse.

"They can swing by the shelter--and we will give them an igloo doghouse," Arthurs said. This way you keep yourself out of trouble, and save a friend's life.

Arthurs also adds--even at the shelter itself--they keep animals inside permanently if its 32 degrees or below, a guideline people should use with pets in their own homes.

As for the penalties for people leaving their pets outside without proper shelter, for a first time offender--you might be issued a citation and fined.

But for repeat offenders and those that leave animals in extremely awful conditions--it could be worse.

That's because failing to provide that shelter is defined as animal cruelty by the county.