PET CORNER: Know state laws if you keep pets outside

Guest Columnist

I have made a decision, no New Year’s resolution this year for me. Just be kind. Be kind to myself, to the people around me, to strangers and to all living things. To me, this “no” resolution is actually the best resolution of all. This world we live in needs it.

I have recently been reading quite a few articles about pets that have died in the bitterly cold weather we have been having. This is a very sad and upsetting thing, no kindness here.

Our pets depend on us to take care of them and to provide them with the things they need. Michigan law says that you must at all times, provide adequate housing and provision for an animal if they are being kept outside.

I personally believe that all pets should live inside with their owner. But if you are a pet owner who has made the decision to keep your pet outside, you will need to pay extra attention to these pets in the winter to insure that they have adequate shelter, food and water. This also means when the cold is extreme, you will need to take extra measures to ensure your pet is adequately provided for.

Michigan Penal Code Section 750.50 outlines what is adequate care for animals kept outside. Failure to meet these minimal needs is considered animal cruelty. Basically if you opt not to bring the pet inside, make certain its shelter is clean, dry and well insulated with straw or wood shavings. Animals drag a lot of moisture onto their bedding from every trip outside in snow. Plan on changing the bedding as frequently as necessary. Equally critical, position the opening, which should have a door flap, away from the direction in which snow and wind usually comes. Provide extra food for much needed calories, as extra energy is burned trying to keep warm in winter weather. Fresh, unfrozen water is essential.

Remember cold weather can be deadly for pets. What should you do if you see a pet outside in the cold without shelter? Speak out. Contact your local animal control, sheriff or police department to report any pet at risk.

Here are a couple more ways to keep pets safe and healthy during the cold winter months.

• Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them which can also irritate their mouth.

• If there are outdoor cats, either owned pets or community cats in your area, remember that they need protection from the elements as well as food and water. It’s easy to give them a hand. You can make your own cat shelter quickly and easily with a plastic tub. Visit The Humane Society of United States website for instructions on how to do this at

• Outdoor cats will seek warmth and sometimes this includes near or on a car engine. This means that if they don’t move when you go out to start the engine the next time, they can be seriously injured or killed. Before starting the engine, rap on the hood a couple of times to chase them off.

• Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.

Want to help Michigan animal shelters in 2019? There is an easy way that you can have a big impact with a small donation. The 2017 Animal Welfare Fund tax check-off provides funds to registered animal shelters for programs that increase the number of dogs and cats that are sterilized prior to adoption, provide anti-cruelty training for animal law enforcement agencies, create animal care programs and assist shelters with the unreimbursed costs of care for animals involved in law violations.

You can make a donation from your Michigan tax refund. Homeward Bound has been the recipient of these funds several times in the last few years. This money has been used to help cover the cost of sterilization of cats and dogs before adoption.

Michigan taxpayers can voluntarily contribute to the fund via Income Tax Form 4642 Michigan Voluntary Contributions Schedule. All you have to do is check the Animal Welfare Fund box associated with the dollar amount you wish to contribute, $5 or $10. Or enter a specific dollar amount greater than $10 in the space provided. Then attach the completed form to Form MI-1040. Please consider this simple way to make a big impact on the lives of pets in Michigan.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” — Amelia Earhart

Deb Green is the vice president of the Manistee County Humane Society. She can be reached at


Homeward Bound Animal Shelter is located off M-55 at 736 Paws Trail in Manistee. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For more information, contact Homeward Bound at (231) 723-7387 or visit or Facebook. Manistee County Humane Society/Homeward Bound is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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