By Mickey Zeldes
We don’t usually experience this type of cold weather that requires a lot of care information like the Northeast but wow, it’s really cold out there! Maybe by the time you are reading this we’ll be back to normal, but these freezing mornings are certainly unusual here. Which means we’ve been getting more calls and emails than usual from people concerned about the care (or lack of) of their neighbor’s pet.
Whenever it gets cold, or there are big rain storms, we get calls from people who are concerned about animals that they know live strictly outside. They either can see them from their windows, or more often, they hear them whimpering and their hearts just break for these animals. While I completely empathize, the truth is the law does not require a super high level of care. All that is required is food, water and shelter. Now we have some play in how shelter is defined and certainly if the animal can’t get out of the wind or rain, it is not sufficient, but they don’t have to be brought into the house. But why aren’t they?
Some people differentiate between animals and people and don’t think the two should be housed in the same quarters. They either grew up being told that animals are dirty; or never had a pet at all and think that animals want to be outside. Different cultures think of animals differently, as well as individual backgrounds. People who are used to living in a more rural area or who raised livestock can have that mindset even with pet animals. If you are used to having acreage for your dog to run around on and cats out in the barn, it’s a foreign concept to walk a dog on a leash and keep a cat indoors!
But as we become more urbanized and live in closer quarters with our neighbors (think multi-story apartment buildings or mobile home units), we have to both keep our pets more contained on our property for their safety and provide other avenues for their exercise. And know that your neighbors are aware if you walk (or don’t walk) your dog and if you keep them outside 24/7. Again, as we move closer to each other, having a dog that barks constantly is a real nuisance and can be treated as one. But I digress – back to the cold weather.
When it actually hits freezing, you must provide your animal with some protection from the cold. Bringing them inside is a quick and easy solution – and if the issue is that your dog isn’t housebroken, we can give you tips and ways to train him. If the dog is destructive (chewing), we have suggestions for that as well. Dogs that are kept indoors tend to be kept cleaner (since you’re more aware of the smell) and brushed more often (minimizes the shedding and fur around the house) which means they are healthier since you’re also more apt to catch abnormalities sooner. Is the cat peeing more frequently? Or worse, straining to urinate? You might not notice these differences if the cat is outdoors. Do they have fleas and ticks? Are they eating well (and not sharing their uneaten food with various wild visitors)? How would you know if they are outdoors and you are in your cozy house?
Which brings me to the most important reason to bring your pets inside. Dogs are very much pack (social) animals and you are their family. It is not normal (could be called cruel) to separate dogs from their pack members and make them live alone. Even if you have two dogs living out in the yard (which is at least better than a solitary dog) you are breaking the bond that the dogs should have with you. What is the point of having the dogs anyway if they are not in the home with you? They offer no protection if they are not with you and they can’t offer you the love that only a dog can give. I feel sorry for anyone who has not experienced that gift!
No More Lost Pets – free microchips and pet ID tags for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati City. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one! The shelter is open Wed 1-6:30 p.m., Thurs.-Fri-Sat 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.