With cold winter weather conditions blowing through Chillicothe, it is important for both humans and animals to live in warm conditions to survive. This is not always the case, however.
According to Leslie Patek, shelter guardian at the Forest O. Triplett Animal Shelter in Chillicothe, animals have a very low tolerance in cold weather. She said it is necessary for animals, especially outdoor animals, to have access to shelter to prevent them from having constant exposure.
"They have to be provided with adequate shelter, food and water," Patek said. "If possible, when we've got these below freezing temperatures, bring them in, put them in the basement or put them in the garage. These wind chills ... it's a death trap."
Patek suggests that animals be provided with a shelter that includes bedding such as cedar chips and a flap over the entrance, as well as possible automatic waterers and feeders so that the water does not freeze and the animal receives proper provisions. Many calls Patek receives of animal neglect include dogs that are chained up outside without these provisions, which is illegal in the City of Chillicothe.
Several years ago, the ordinances were changed so that leaving dogs chained outside 24/7 was illegal. Dogs may be left outside on chains for short periods of time, but must either be taken inside or left on an outdoor pulley for mobility. Patek said that before these ordinances was changed, many cases of dog injuries and deaths were reported from chain-related injuries. She said that since the ordinance was changed, there aren't as many of these cases, but she does still receive calls reporting dogs left outdoors on chains.
If Patek investigates these animal neglect calls and finds them to be accurate, she issues a warning and notifies the pet owners of the behavior that needs to be changed. Once there is a second report of animal neglect for the same animal, however, Patek removes the dog from the home and issues a ticket with the help of local police officers. Chief of Police Rick Knouse said that in Chillicothe, roughly four to five animal neglect charges occur per year where the animal is removed from the home. He said that in many of these cases, pet owners get tired of their pets as they get older.
"A lot of people like their pets when they're young, when they're puppies and kitties, but when they get older they start neglecting them," Knouse said.
Animal neglect tickets require the person to go to court. For a pet owner to get their animal back, they are usually required to pay a board bill for the animal's time at the shelter as well as the court costs. Many pet owners, however, cannot afford these fines, so the shelter keeps the animals.
Page 2 of 2 - "If you've got a dog outside, you better make provisions," Patek explained. "These dogs that just stand in the snow, yeah, they're going to get frostbitten."
Patek said even indoor animals, especially smaller dogs, are capable of getting frostbite. To prevent this, Patek said that small dogs should wear small coats and their feet should be wiped off after being outdoors in the snow. She also suggested that animals receive extra food during the winter to keep their weight healthy.
So far this winter, Patek has already received several animal neglect calls.
"It's just beginning," Patek said. "It'll get worse, the calls are just starting to come in. People are watching."
Some people, to avoid pet responsibility, resort to pet dumping on highways and gravel roads. The chance of an animal's survival when it is dumped, especially in these conditions, is not high. Patek said that many of these cases occur because the pet owner is unable to afford proper provisions for the animal.
"Times are hard, it's as simple as that," Patek concluded. "Half these people can't feed themselves, let alone the animal."
To learn more about pet neglect or the shelter, contact the animal shelter at 660-646-1006.