Bone-chilling temperatures have swept across large portions of the nation already this winter, leaving not only humans vulnerable to the dangerous conditions but animals as well.
Tragically, a neglected dog in Hartford, Connecticut, died when his caretakers left him outside in the freezing January weather. According to local affiliate Fox61, a 3-year-old Pit Bull mix was found dead, chained, and frozen solid when a concerned neighbor called the authorities.
The news station reports that, according to police, "the dog's owner has been behind bars on drug charges for about six months and his family made arrangements for the dog to be cared for." The dog, who was reportedly living in the basement of the residence, was taken outside after a pipe had burst.
When the dog was discovered by Hartford police he showed signs of hypothermia and the veterinary report stated that the dog, who had been lying in his own fecal matter, "Was underweight for his body size with low body fat and low muscle density. His bones were easily palpable and often visible beneath the skin —his ribs and pelvic bones were prominent."
Police suspect the dog could have been left outside upwards of a month. Animal cruelty charges are expected to be filed in the wake of the dog's horrific death.
Sadly, neglegent owners leaving pets outside in the brutal cold is a far-too-common issue, and one that doesn't need to occur.
Dr. Lori Bierbrier, the medical director of the ASPCA Community Medicine Department, tells petMD that pet owners should follow this simple guideline: "If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold outside for your pet," she told petMD. "Pet owners should keep their pet’s exposure to the outdoors as minimal as possible."
In addition to not leaving pets outside (or even in cars) in the cold or inclement weather, pet parents, "should ensure that all pets have access to warm, dry shelter and fresh (not frozen) water, as well as ensuring that all pets wear a collar and ID with up-to-date contact information," Bierbrier recommended.
Dogs with short hair coats could benefit from wearing coats in the wintertime, Bierbrier added. "If pet owners do use a dog coat, the most important thing is that it fit correctly," she said.
"Animals left in extreme temperatures, especially without food and shelter, are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and death," she warned. "There is no doubt that the animal suffers significantly during this process."
If you see that an animal, like the dog in Connecticut, is being abused and left out in the cold, call your local law enforcement, Bierbrier advised. "Before calling, note as many details as possible, including the date, time, exact location, and type of animal(s) involved."
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Read more: How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog?