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The Humane Society of the United States Urges Residents in Path of Winter Storm to Protect their Pets

Tips to keep pets safe from snow and cold winter weather

The Humane Society of the United States urges pet owners to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their companion animals during the severe weather forecast for the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions this week.

“When extreme winter storms are coming our way, the best way to keep pets safe is by being prepared,” said Joanne Bourbeau, northeastern regional director for The HSUS. “Those in the path of heavy snow and potential power outages should stock up on pet food and supplies and have a plan ready in the event you have to leave your home.”

AccuWeather forecasters predict that areas from North Carolina to West Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England will receive heavy snow spanning Tuesday into Thursday.

If you plan to stay in your home, remember to keep pets indoors. In many jurisdictions, leaving a domestic animal outside during extreme cold, particularly if they are without access to shelter, food and/or water, violates state or local animal cruelty laws. Those who are forced to leave their homes due to lack of electricity should not leave their pets behind.

Pet owners can reduce their animals' chances of being at risk during a disaster by following the suggestions below.

Things you can do right now:

  • Put a collar with visible identification on your pets, including indoor-only pets.
  • Keep pictures of your pets on hand for identification purposes. Ideally, you should also be in the photo.
  • Create a pet emergency kit (see below) and refresh the items every few months.
  • Talk to your neighbors about how they can help your pets if you are not at home when disaster strikes.
  • Create a list of hotels that allow pets.

Pet emergency kits should include: 

  • Minimum of a five-seven day supply of food in airtight, waterproof containers, and drinking water.
  • Bowls for food and water.
  • Current photos and physical description of your pets, including details on markings.
  • Medications, vaccination records and first aid pet supplies.
  • Comfort items such as a toy and blanket.
  • Small garbage bags.
  • For dogs include: leash, harness and a sturdy carrier large enough to use as a sleeping area.
  • For cats include: litter and litter box and a sturdy carrier large enough for transport and for your cat to use as a temporary “apartment” for several days.

Some simple guidelines for keeping animals safe during the winter months:

  • Don't leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. Dogs and cats are safer indoors, except when taken out for supervised exercise. Regardless of the season, cats and shorthaired, very young, or old dogs should never be left outside. Short-coated dogs should wear a sweater during walks.
  • Deep snow cover can confuse a pet and cover their familiar scent landmarks.  It is easier, and more dangerous, for your pet to be lost in snowy weather so keep an eye on them at all times when outdoors.
  • Pets who spend time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Water can freeze in just a few minutes if the temperature falls near or below zero, so make sure your pet has water indoors as well. If you keep a water bowl outside, routinely check to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal for any outside food or water bowls; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal. Heated plastic pet water bowls are also an option to keep water from freezing when your pets must be outdoors.

For more tips on keeping animals safe during the winter, visit humanesociety.org/winterpets.

Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943, stwining@humanesociety.org