State law aims to protect pets in extreme weather conditions - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

State law aims to protect pets in extreme weather conditions

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

Animal control officers throughout western Massachusetts are busy in this cold weather, responding to calls about pets left outside.  

In one case in Hartford yesterday, police found a dog frozen to death in a backyard.  Police said that a concerned neighbor made the call, but the dog had been left outside for too long and it was too late.   

Local animal control officers said Tuesday that the bottom line is: there's a law against keeping your pets out in extreme weather conditions.

"We have been busy.  We have received multiple calls in regards to some neighbors concerns about animals being outside in this extreme weather," said Springfield animal control officer Elfred Mateo.

Mateo has been out on calls non-stop, checking in on pets left outside.  

Lori Swanson, a supervisor at the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center in Springfield, told Western Mass News that most calls so far have had a happy ending.

[READ MORE: PD: Dead dog found in Hartford; charges pending]

"Unfortunately, we got a call from a local police department saying there was a little dog that was left outside and so this was a little dog that fortunately, a neighbor was looking for them.  The police department responded really quickly and we were able to bring the dog here and the dog is doing remarkably well," Swanson noted.

However, many pets aren't so lucky.  

To protect against what the state calls animal abuse,  the Massachusetts Animal Welfare Act "prohibits dogs being tethered outdoors for more than 15 minutes during a weather advisory or watch issued by federal, state or municipal agencies, as well as extreme weather conditions." 

"When there's extreme weather advisory or warning, the dogs need to be inside," Mateo said.  

Veterinarians say if the temperature is 45 or below, limit your dog or cats outside time.  Once temperatures drop below 20, they said that animals can develop hypothermia and frostbite quickly.  

If you're concerned about any animal you see outside, "you should call animal control.  Whether it's in Springfield, TJO, Chicopee, Holyoke, or your own town's animal control.  When it's this cold, animals should not be left out," Swanson explained.

Symptoms of hypothermia in cats and dogs include blue tinting to the skin or lips, lethargy, and a disinterest in food.  

Mateo said that if it's too cold for you to be outside, don't let your pet outside either.

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