LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - In cold conditions such as those descending upon central Arkansas this week, there are many reminders to protect ourselves, and those who depend on us, from the weather.
While bringing a dog inside is the best way to keep it warm in the winter, that it is not always possible or preferable for some families. Animal control officers say they spend a lot of time responding to complaints about pets that are left out in the cold weather. But they ask that neighbors take action with their phones, not their hands.
“Somebody might take the initiative to get a dog out of a hot car. In wintertime, it's not the same,” said Adam Tindall, the lead officer for North Little Rock's Animal Control Department. “I wouldn't advise anybody to step in. I'd advise them to contact their local authorities: police department, sheriff's department, whoever it may be for that particular area.”
The notion of providing protection for Good Samaritans who rescue animals from extreme weather has become more popular recently. Arkansas is among 26 states that does not have a law that deals with leaving dogs in hot cars.
The Little Rock Board of Directors debated an ordinance this fall that would have allowed first responders to rescue an animal that was stuck inside a car if the temperature outside was below 30 degrees or above 70 degrees. The ordinance was modified, but eventually scrapped.
Tindall said most scenarios do not require the dramatic action of a Good Samaritan.
“Some situations, we can resolve quickly,” he stated. “You know, a simple knock on the door: 'hey, how you doing? Have you noticed your dog's tangled up in the back and can't reach his dog house?'”
Tindall said a common problem is that a dog will be chained in its yard and unable to reach its doghouse. (Chaining up a dog is illegal in North Little Rock.) Without the ability to get into shelter, a dog is more likely to struggle in the cold.
“Realize what kind of dog you've got,” Tindall said. “If you've got a two-pound Chihuahua, that's not really an outside type of dog. They don't deal well in cold weather. They don't have the fur coat for weather like that. But if you've got an Alaskan Malamute or a Husky, then those dogs are born and raised in the cold. They're prepared for it.”
Other shelters do not provide adequate protection from the elements. “I've seen my dad use a light bulb inside there to create a little heat,” Tindall said. “If you got a dog that can withstand that, you can use those types of light bulbs, and run an extension cord out there to help keep that heat in there.”
North Little Rock has a partnership between its Animal Control and Police departments. Outside business hours, an officer is on call to respond to complaints and determine if the situation requires immediate action, or can wait for animal control officers to check on it later.
Tindall said most people think about outdoor pets when the weather becomes extreme.
“We'd much rather them contact us on the warmer side of things,” he said. “That way, we can fix the problem before the dog has to go through any kind of suffering.”
Tindall mentioned that a good rule of thumb is: if you feel uncomfortable in the weather, your pet likely feels the same way. Aside from giving an outdoor dog blankets, food, and fresh water, Tindal believes the best thing an owner can do is to not forget about them.
“You know, a lot of people get caught up in the holidays, sometimes, and they forget sometimes,” he stated. “That's the last thing I want to do, is going and tell somebody his dog passed away because of something so simple that you could take care of.”