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Bitter cold of recent winter weather can put outdoor pets, horses at risk

Kitty, a Shih Tzu, wears a sweater Saturday to stay warm during a walk with Charles Childs from Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar. The Humane Society of Kandiyohi County often sees an increase in phone calls about animal care at this time of year. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The two dogs at a rural Kandiyohi County home had access to shelter and appeared to be healthy, but their drinking water had frozen in the subzero temperatures gripping the region.

The call on Saturday to local law enforcement authorities, asking them to check on the dogs' welfare, was one of several in recent days. It's a time of year when the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County also sees an increase in phone calls about animal care, said Bobbie Bauman, director of animal care at the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar.

"We ask everyone to keep an eye out for animals in need," she said.

Minnesota statutes outline the requirements for sheltering companion animals and horses from the weather.

Dogs who are kept outdoors or in unheated enclosures must have adequate shelter that's both moisture-proof and wind-proof, and large enough to accommodate the dog and promote the retention of body heat.

According to the statute, outdoor dog shelters "shall be made of durable material with a solid, moisture-proof floor or a floor raised at least two inches from the ground." Windbreaks at the entrance of the shelter are required from Nov. 1 to March 31.

Dog shelters also must contain adequate bedding, such as hay, straw, cedar shavings or blankets, to help provide insulation and protect the animal from cold and damp.

Failure to properly shelter a dog can result in a petty misdemeanor citation.

Horses should have a natural or constructed shelter that adequately protects them from the elements. Shelters should be structurally sound, well-ventilated, and large enough for the animal to easily stand, lie down and turn around.

Horses and ponies also should be provided with clean drinking water at all times. The state statute does not regard snow or ice as an adequate source of water for horses.

Bauman said the public can call Hawk Creek Animal Shelter at 235-7612 for more information.

If there's reason to believe an outdoor animal is not being properly cared for, enforcement of the statutes falls under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies.

"They are pretty busy this time of year, so please be patient, but if there is an animal in immediate danger, please ask to talk directly to a police officer or sheriff's deputy," Bauman said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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