WILMINGTON — It might technically still be fall but cold winter weather is moving into the Cape Fear region with freeze warnings and overnight lows in the 20s — protecting your home and ensuring residents are warm is important, but it is also important to make sure pets and animals are also protected from the cold.
In New Hanover County, failure to provide adequate shelter and protection for pets can lead to criminal and civil charges, according to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Stephen Watson.
New Hanover County has a set of ordinances that address the conditions animals in the county may be kept in.
For dogs, an adequate shelter must be provided, regardless of the season.
“Dog owners are required to provide an outdoor pen meeting the following specifications: each dog less than 25 pounds must have a kennel of at least 8- feet by 10-feet in size, and each dog 25 pounds or greater must have a kennel of 10-feet x 10-feet in size. Animal services reserve the right to determine if a space is considered suitable for the number and size of dogs housed in an outdoor enclosure,” according to the ordinance.
Dogs must also have suitable shelter when kept outdoors, Watson said. This means a dog house with at least three walls and a roof or a prefabricated “igloo” type dog house. While it is not required by law, Watson suggests lining the floor of the shelter with hay or blankets to help pets stay warm in the winter.
At no time are dogs allowed to be kept outdoors on ropes or chains according to the ordinance.
Providing food and water is another necessity at all times of the year, but it is worth keeping in mind that when temperatures drop below freezing, water for drinking might turn to ice and be undrinkable.
According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, last year there were at least 40 companion animal cold-weather deaths reported — most animal deaths are not reported though.
If you observe an animal being kept in unacceptable conditions, the New Hanover County Animal Services can be reached by phone or in person.
Calls are received at the shelter Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at 910-798-7500.
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