Officials share tips on caring for pets this winter

Local officials are encouraging area residents to keep pets’ safety in mind this winter and remember to provide them with adequate food, water and shelter. People who are concerned about the safety of an animal can call animal control at (231) 796-2221. (Pioneer file photo)

MECOSTA COUNTY — While people in Mecosta County huddle indoors this winter to escape the cold weather, it is important they remember to keep their furry friends warm and protected from the elements.

According to Mecosta County Animal Control Officer Trent Livermore, Michigan law requires dogs to be provided with adequate food, shelter and water during the winter.

Cynthia Glazier, manager of the Mecosta County Animal Rescue Coalition, explained high-quality food, and large amounts of it, is needed to keep pets healthy this time of year.

“Low-quality food does not provide the nutrients pets need to keep their strength up during the winter,” Glazier said.

In addition to adequate food, dogs need access to fresh water throughout the day that has not frozen due to low temperatures, she said, noting heated water bowls help to ensure pets’ water does not freeze while outside.

Livermore said fresh water is particularly important because animals can’t survive by only eating snow to hydrate.

Glazier and Livermore agreed access to warm shelter out of the elements also is necessary for family pets such as dogs.

Livermore said the most important parts of providing adequate shelter for dogs are using insulation which will not hold water, keeping the entrance facing away from the wind and choosing a dog house that is small enough to allow the dog to heat the inside of the shelter with their body heat.

“Straw is by far the best insulation for an outside dog house,” he said, noting this material does not hold moisture, and therefore will not freeze. On the other hand, Livermore explained blankets can get wet and will then freeze and put pets at risk.

Glazier said while some dog breeds do acclimate well to cold weather, it still is important to have warm shelter available to them so they have the opportunity to escape wind and other poor conditions.

Livermore explained if a concerned citizen contacts the animal control department regarding an animal outside during the winter, he will perform a well-being check to evaluate the situation, taking steps such as checking the dog’s weight and overall condition, if shelter is available and if there appears to be footprints in the snow indicating someone is taking care of the animal on a regular basis. After this, he also will speak with the owner regarding the situation.

Glazier said people should check on dogs outside at least twice a day to ensure they are fed and have fresh water.

Although there are laws in place regarding dogs during the winter in Michigan, Livermore said there are no laws regulating caring for cats during this time of year.

Glazier explained there are several methods individuals can follow to build warm homes for feral and stray cats, including placing a small tote inside a larger tote with Styrofoam insulation placed in the space between the two.

However, she said people should exercise caution when feeding cats in the neighborhood throughout the year because they will continue to return for food during the winter, and people may not be able to continue to provide them with food and shelter once the cold weather sets in, leaving the animal at risk.

Livermore said cats and dogs are not the only animals to consider in the next few months, as livestock such as horses and cows also are exposed to the elements.

One essential factor to remember when caring for these animals is horses and cows keep themselves warm through body fat and by eating, so it is necessary to keep a constant supply of food and fresh water available to them, he said.

He added although cows and horses do not need a shelter in the same way a cat or dog does to stay safe in the winter, they do require access to trees or other objects which can block the wind and provide some relief.

Livermore said people who are concerned about an animal’s safety can call animal control at (231) 796-2221.

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