The dangers of leaving dogs alone in hot cars during the summertime are well publicized, but what about dogs left in cold cars when the temperature plummets?
Last week, Beaver Bank resident Krista Alford arrived in downtown Halifax early to secure parking for a Mooseheads game. She was upset to see a Chihuahua alone in a locked vehicle.
With wind chill temperatures at around -20 Celsius and frost building up on the back window where the dog was huddled in apparent discomfort, Alford waited for about 40 minutes for the owners to return. At 6 p.m. she called police.
“He (the dog) was visibly upset, crying and whimpering in the back,” Alford recalled. “Police came at 6:30 p.m. and at the first intermission around 7:30 p.m. my husband went outside to check and he noticed the car was running with the dog in it but no people.”
A dog lover and owner of a chocolate lab, Alford said she was very concerned for the dog’s safety given its size and short coat. She doesn’t understand why anyone would bring their dog to sit and wait in a cold car while they took in a hockey game.
“My rule is if I don’t want to be left in it without the engine running, then my dog shouldn’t be in it,” she said.
“If it’s too hot or too cold for me, it’s too hot or too cold for my dog.”
David Ross, the SPCA’s provincial chief inspector, said while calls about dogs left in cold cars aren’t typical, his organization did field a few calls last week.
“We had calls from members of the public about animals in cold vehicles during the really cold weather we’ve been having,” he said.
Cases aren’t always clear cut, and like all investigations undertaken by the SPCA, Ross said a number of factors need to be considered.
“It depends on how severe the weather is, the type of dog it is, and the health of the dog,” Ross explained. “Some dogs are bred for the cold, like huskies. Is it long haired or short haired, does it have a winter coat?”
Regardless of the situation, Ross said they encourage people to call anytime they feel an animal may be in distress or in harm’s way and they will respond as quickly as possible.
He said during particularly cold temperatures there are some dogs who might be at risk for hypothermia.
“Our preference at the SPCA is that no animal is locked in any vehicle at any time for an extended period of time,” he said.
A few cold weather tips for pet owners from the Nova Scotia Homeless Pet Project (www.nshomelesspets.com/cold.htm):
•Bundle up! If you find it’s cold out, so will your pets! Good warm winter coats and boots for your pet will allow you both to have fun, safely, when playing and hiking in the snow.
•You wouldn't put your pet in the fridge. Don't leave them waiting for you in your car.
•Like us, pets burn more energy outside in the cold. If you and your pet spend time out in the cold, you may need to increase the amount of food for them. The reverse is also true. If you and your pets would rather hang by the fire, you may need to watch their diet on the cold winter days.
•Paws are susceptible to frostbite, but most symptoms don't surface for a couple of days. If paws are swollen or your pet is fussing over the area, wrap your pet in warm blankets, apply a warm (not hot) water bottle to the affected area and go to the vet immediately.
•Pets with heart or respiratory problems are at greater risk when exposed to cold weather.
•The salt that is spread on the streets and roads contains chemicals. If your dog will not wear winter boots, train him or her to sit while you wipe paws with a damp cloth. Remove all bits of ice from between pads too.
•Antifreeze is toxic to any pet and is a year round hazard.