How to help animals during the cold front crossing Dallas-Fort Worth
Forecasters are warning of life-threatening cold in Dallas-Fort Worth and most of the U.S. this week, due to an arctic air mass swooping down across the South.
The cold will move in on Thursday afternoon, dropping to teens at night, and remaining frigidly cold on Friday with a high of 25 degrees. On Saturday, it'll barely reach freezing, and then will finally creep back up into the low 40s on Sunday.
Humans can hunker down but animals are vulnerable, and animal groups are stepping up with warnings and advice, including, all caps, BRINGING YOUR PETS INSIDE.
Safe Outdoor Dogs Act
The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act is a law that went into effect in Texas in January 2022. It establishes basic standards of shelter and care to protect dogs that have been left outdoors from extreme temperatures, weather, and standing water.
It applies during extreme weather events such as when the temperature drops below 32 degrees - exactly what's going to happen this week.
"People sometimes think of dogs as being able to withstand extreme temperatures for long," says Shelby Bobosky, executive director of Texas Humane Legislation Network, an advocacy group. "But if the pet is not adequately protected from the elements, that's a violation of the law."
Pet owners who leave their pets out in the dangerous cold without adequate shelter can face criminal charges — at the very least, a Class C misdemeanor, but in serious cases, they could face animal cruelty charges and possible jail time.
What you can do if you see a dog outside
THLN recommends calling the authorities if you see dogs without shelter in the bitter cold, or if a doghouse or shelter seems inadequate against extreme temperatures. An animal care officer can make the best assessment of whether the shelter is sufficient.
Tips for pet owners
If you take your dog outside, stay with them, or check on them frequently.
Leaving an animal in a shed, doghouse, or garage unattended with space heaters is not advised, since heaters can cause fires.
SPCA of Texas has six Pet Care Tips, as follows:
- Tap your hood. Warm engines attract cats and small animals, who nestle under the hood but can get seriously hurt if a car is running. Tap your hood before starting your car to scare them out.
- Check their paws. Check and wipe paws after walks to protect against harsh weather and salt.
- Sweater weather. Consider a warm dry coat for your pet when outdoors.
- Watch for chemicals. Antifreeze is poisonous - keep it out of reach.
- Stay indoors. Keep poty breaks quick and monitor your pet while outside.
- Be alert. Keep an eye out for signs of hypothermia such as shivering, whining, lethargy, decreased heart rate, and trouble walking or breathing.
The North Texas Wildlife Center offers these tips for helping squirrels and other backyard wildlife:
- Put out fresh water in various size bowls, checking frequently to break it up if it freezes or keep it from freezing with a heated bowl or heating device.
- Leaves, sticks, and straw provide nesting materials and shelter for wildlife to stay warm.
- Put out whole or shelled nuts for squirrels.
- Place birdseed in sheltered areas such as under bushes, carports, or umbrellas, to protect from harsh winds.
- Keep your cats and dogs indoors.
Don't be surprised to see wildlife at unusual times. They may deviate from their normal schedule to seek food at the wamest time of the day.