The Delaware Division of Public Health’s Office of Animal Welfare has been receiving and responding to an increasing number of calls during the recent cold weather and is providing additional information and guidance regarding shelter requirements for pets, and in particular, dogs, to enable residents to protect their pets from dangerous weather conditions.
Residents are encouraged to keep dogs indoors during times of extreme cold weather. Dogs that are acclimated to Delaware’s outdoor temperatures are allowed to be kept outdoors, but Delaware law requires that owners provide clean, moisture-resistant bedding and additional bedding and protection for temperatures 35 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. OAW recommends straw bedding because it does not hold moisture like cedar chips or old towels. A warm house with a flap and clean, dry bedding helps a dog preserve body heat and remain dry during rain or snow.
Short-haired dogs and other breeds not acclimated to Delaware’s outdoor temperatures cannot be kept in outdoor facilities unless approved by a licensed veterinarian. While cats are not covered under the same law, outdoor felines need the same winter accommodations.
Dogs are required to be brought indoors when the National Weather Service issues a hazardous weather warning. While all three Delaware counties are no longer under an NWS weather warning, OAW is encouraging pet owners to bring all pets indoors due to the low temperatures Delaware is experiencing.
Residents who see a pet that has been left outdoors in cold temperatures without proper shelter or protection from the elements, report it to the Delaware Animal Services Hotline at 255-4646. Residents are advised, however, to limit their reports to cases in which they physically witnessed improper treatment or care of an animal. For more, visit animalservices.delaware.gov.
Additional precautions to protect pets in the cold:
— Limit time outside. Keep walks short and wipe off dog’s legs, paws and stomach with a towel when coming in from walks or from being outside.
— Ensure access to water at all times. Frequently check water bowls to ensure water is not frozen. If a metal watering bowl is used, replace it with plastic as a pet's tongue can get stuck to metal in cold temperatures.
— Additional food may be needed. Animals burn more calories in cold temperatures to stay warm, so they may need an increase in the amount of food provided. Check with a veterinarian about pet’s nutritional needs in cold weather.
— Keep dogs on a leash at all times while outdoors. Dogs can lose their scent and get lost when snow or ice is on the ground, especially during snowstorms.
— Outdoor cats need attention, too. Whether outdoor cats are owned, stray or feral, they need the same protection from cold weather as your pets. If there are outdoor cats in a neighborhood, provide them with dry, warm shelter, as well as food and water to help them survive low temperatures. For safety, do not handle any unfamiliar animals, particularly if the rabies vaccination status is unknown. An animal may have rabies and not exhibit any external signs.