The Nature of the Beast

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Critters get cold too!

Christmas night brought a thick blanket of snow to many Arkansans, reminding us that winter is indeed here. Some areas received up to 14 inches of pristine white iciness, and nearly 265,000 citizens were left without electricity. Most of that number doubtless had animals whose living spaces were also without heat or light. These animals were fortunate, however, because they at least had shelter and warm human bodies to snuggle against. But what about those animals which were left outside -- those dogs and cats without homes, barns, or garages to provide much-needed shelter?

Two winters ago the lead article in the Lovely County Citizen described the grisly death of a dog in Holiday Island -- a young dog whose owner left him or her tied outside and did not return to bring the animal in before nightfall -- a night were temperatures plunged to well below zero. Instead the poor animal, unable to get under or into any form of shelter for warmth and comfort against the bitter cold, actually froze to death. This dog's companion, another young dog also tied up outside, had been able to get partially under a deck of some sort, and thereby survived. That animal was taken for immediate veterinarian care, and was hospitalized with severe hypothermia. The paper provided no follow-up regarding the legal disposition of this case. Was the owner charged with animal cruelty? Was he or she convicted? What sentence was handed down? We may never know what happened to that negligent pet owner, but we can take measures to ensure that no other animals suffer such a cruel fate.

This time of year is perfect for reviewing the necessity of proper care of animals during the winter months. The Humane Society of the United States suggests that law enforcement be contacted if one becomes aware that a pet has been left outside in extremely cold temperatures. It is important to remember that animal neglect IS a form of animal cruelty, and probably the most common form. The misconception that an animal will not suffer because "they have a fur coat", is just that -- a misconception. Without proper shelter, food and water, animals cannot survive in frigid temperatures any better than humans can. It is important to remember that water freezes, and an animal cannot drink frozen water, so outside dishes such be checked frequently during cold snaps.

We here in the Eureka Springs area are fortunate -- fortunate to have an Animal Control Officer, and fortunate to have a wonderful shelter -- both of which are vital to the care of animals that may have been abandoned in inclement weather. Should you become aware of a pet that has been left outside, and the temperature is plummeting toward freezing, don't hesitate to call Jim Evans at 479-244-5908. You may reach the Good Shepherd Animal Shelter at 479-253-9188. Employees there can also provide you with good information regarding how to handle situations that are of concern.

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