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Pet abuse reports rise as temperatures drop

Thu., Dec. 18, 2008

Animals left outside face hypothermia risk

Reports of animal abuse have spiked in both Coeur d’Alene and Spokane since the cold snap started Saturday, police department and animal control officers say.

Coeur d’Alene’s animal control officers have responded to 16 animal abuse calls since Saturday, Sgt. Christie Wood said in a news release. Officers are investigating cases of animals being left outside with no shelter or water.

Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., said her organization is receiving 30 to 40 calls a day from residents worried about their neighbors’ dogs. Usually, SpokAnimal receives one or two of those calls a day, she said.

“Most of them are taken care of by educating and talking with the owner,” Mackie said, adding that pet owners can gauge an animal’s comfort level outside by going out in a coat, hat and gloves to determine how long it takes them to become cold. A dog will become cold in the same amount of time, Mackie said, adding that comfort level will vary by breed.

Animals are at risk of hypothermia if left outside in severe weather, Dr. Nichole Leonard, a veterinarian with Prairie Animal Hospital, said in the release. The length of time an animal can survive outside in cold weather depends on their breed, coat and body condition, she said.

Dogs with short hair, including pit bulls, boxers and pugs, should not be left outside in frigid conditions for more than 20 minutes, Leonard said. Pet owners should provide animals with adequate shelter, along with food and water, the release said. Owners who neglect or abuse their pets can face animal cruelty charges and their animals may be seized.

Coeur d’Alene police statistics show that 90 percent of animal abuse calls are made anonymously. However, officers cannot confirm an animal’s condition when they can’t see it themselves.

Police ask that residents reporting abuse allow officers to observe the situation from their property if necessary.

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