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Pets Suffer Outside in Cold, Owners Face Hefty Fines in W. Lafayette, IN

Temperatures are at record lows all over the nation and, just like humans, pets can suffer severely from frigid temperatures. Sadly, every winter dogs left outside, and other pets without adequate shelter or warmth, suffer and sometimes freeze to death while owners curl up in warm beds or sit by fireplaces in cozy homes.

People leaving their pets outside in the extremely cold winter temperatures of W. Lafayette, IN, could find themselves facing some hefty fines, according to

"In West Lafayette we have an ordinance that provides for neglect of an animal, which includes leaving an animal unattended out in the extreme weather or in a vehicle…,” says Code Enforcement Supervisor Rick Walker.

West Lafayette residents can be charged from $152 to $500 for leaving their pets outside, and other penalties for leaving your animals out in the cold could go even further, Walker states.

"Somebody could be ticketed through county court and that's considered a misdemeanor and would take place in a Tippecanoe County court as opposed to the city court here in West Lafayette," Walker explained.

Dr. Lorraine Corriveau of Purdue’s Small Animal Hospital urges keeping pets inside in winter weather and tells us, "Pets suffer from hypothermia and frostbite just like we do. All animals, both big and small, can experience hypothermia and frostbite in the matter of minutes.”

Dr. Corriveau says the length of time before an animal is affected varies, “… but it doesn't necessarily have to take very long." She recommends booties for dogs for even short walks outside in freezing weather.

Dr. Corriveau also provides some warning signs that pets may be experiencing stress from the cold weather, which includes discoloration of their skin, especially those extremities on the top of their ears, their toes and the pads of their feet.

“They may shiver or shake and may seem more tired and not want to move around much and “…are signs that you're going to want to get your pet inside," she states.

Supervisor Walker warns, “Every scenario is different.” He urges residents to call their local police department if they notice any animals out in the cold, and he says in W. LaFayette someone from animal control will go check out the situation.


John Andersen, DVM, in Virginia, wrote a very poignant and informative article for the Crozet Gazette in 2010, Freezing is no Fun for Outside Dogs. Dr. Anderson believes that dogs "should not be forced to stay outside on cold winter days and nights (below 40-ish)."

I think this is a practice that is done because “that’s the way it’s been done, “or…“because they’re fine.” “But they’re not fine. Being cold is one of the most miserable sufferings we can have,” Dr. Anderson writes.


Dr. Anderson asks us to consider that dogs are not wolves: “The domestic dog in all of its current breeds and mixes originated from the gray wolf around 15,000 years ago. Wolves have many natural attributes that allow them to tolerate extreme cold,” he says.

“Here is a dog [the wolf] who was meant for cold weather, having many natural attributes that allow them to tolerate extreme cold. Their coats are incredibly thick, making a Labrador’s coat seem like a T-shirt. They have special circulation in their feet to keep their toes and footpads from freezing. They sleep with their long bushy tails wrapped over their noses and feet, retaining warm exhaled air which also helps to keep their feet warm. Their larger body size is efficient at generating and conserving heat.”

Dr. Anderson contrasts our current dog breeds’ ability to tolerate cold weather,“Only a small percentage of the dogs are breeds that remain close to their wolf ancestry and are cold-weather adapted…“ “Hounds, Beagles, Pit Bulls and even Retrievers cannot tolerate cold weather,” he says.

Dr Anderson contends that it may not be likely that a night in 20-degree weather will kill them. But, he asks, “…was that a terrible night for them? Absolutely! Being cold for extended periods of time is misery.”


The following is adapted from a list by Vicki McClure Davidson for those in a cold area of Arizona. At the risk of repeating what many already know, here are reminders or this may be important information for newcomers to cold/freezing climates (this year that includes Southern California):

1) Keep pets inside when temperatures drop low, except for short walks and supervised exercise.

2) If your pet spends time out in the cold, it will need more food because keeping warm requires more body energy.

3) If your pet's water dish is outside, check it frequently to make sure the water is fresh and not frozen.

4) Use plastic food and water bowls outdoors. When the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can actually stick and freeze to metal bowls and containers.

5) Do not allow your pet to jump into a metal truck bed in freezing temperatures. Its pads can quickly freeze and stick to the metal and can be torn; and, if its tongue touches the metal, the same can happen.

6) Short-haired dogs may need a protective sweater or jacket outside in the cold.

7) Chemicals or salt used on city streets to melt snow can be drying or cause allergic reactions if a dog's bare feet are exposed to them for any length of time.

9) Snow can hide sharp-edged rocks, and other dangerous objects that your dog may step on, so check pads at the end of any outside excursion.

8) Slush, icy water, and snow, in addition to being just plain COLD, will dry out your dog's foot pads, so protect your dog's feet with some kind of waterproof dog booties when it is outside.


If a dog must be left outside for any period of time in cold temperatures, be sure the there is a warm, heavy-duty dog house, elevated off the ground and large enough to allow comfortable movement but small enough to retain the body heat of the animal. Use straw as bedding. It is a natural insulator, experts say.

And, let’s hope more communities adopt enforcement programs like LaFayette, IN, where anyone leaving pets outside in extremely cold temperatures can find themselves facing some hefty fines!



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