The historic “bomb cyclone” and ensuing cold snap buried the Northeast in snow, knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes, forced airports to close, flooded streets and caused temperatures to plunge to record lows — down to -45 Fahrenheit in parts of Maine and New Hampshire. It was so cold that a frozen water pipe burst at New York’sJFK Airport and a terminal flooded, the ocean froze on the Atlantic coast, snow fell on Hawaii and even ski resorts had to close down.
Yet despite these extreme, unforgiving conditions, countless dogs were stuck outside on chains or in backyard pens as if they were nothing more than lawn ornaments. They shivered violently, curling themselves into the smallest possible ball in a desperate attempt to conserve body heat while their ears and feet froze and their bones ached from the unrelenting cold.
In Detroit, a man abandoned a small dog in a cage outside an animal-rescue facility in the middle of the night. When shelter workers returned in the morning, they found the dog frozen to death, still inside the cage. In Toledo, Ohio, a cruelty investigator found a female pit bull curled up on a porch, frozen solid. The dog had only a pillow and some blankets — which offer no protection from the cold — and no food or water. A dog in Flint, Michigan, who had apparently been hit by a car and sustained a broken femur, had to be pried from the ground after he froze to it. Dogs in Ohio, Connecticut and Virginia have been found frozen to death inside their doghouses.
Cats, too, are suffering and dying outdoors in these temperatures. One cat was found near a bowling alley in Manitoba, screaming in pain because his tail, which had to be amputated, was severely frostbitten. So far this winter, at least 25 animals have died after they were left outside, and many more animals’ deaths have surely gone unreported.
Before, during and after the bomb cyclone, PETA’s fieldworkers raced to prevent more animals from ending up like these unfortunate ones. They urged people to allow their dogs inside, filled water buckets for dogs who had only a block of solid ice (or nothing at all) for hydration, gave a good meal to dogs who looked like they hadn’t eaten in days and delivered free, custom-built doghouses stuffed with straw to provide some insulation against the cold.
As PETA’s fieldworker piled straw into a doghouse for a dog named Cuba, she was showered with kisses before the grateful pup quickly dove inside to hunker down for warmth. At another stop, the fieldworkers found seven puppies left out in the cold and snow. Their owner agreed to surrender them, and after giving them a much-needed warm-up, the fieldworkers delivered them to a local shelter for a chance at finding cozy, loving homes.
Animals are simply not equipped to survive these temperatures. They will die if left outdoors without proper shelter. Frostbite, hypothermia and dehydration (when water sources freeze) are constant threats in cold weather.
Please, let your animals stay inside and urge your friends and neighbors to do the same. If necessary, offer to take their animals into your own home to prevent them from freezing. If you see stray or feral animals, keep them indoors until you can find their guardians or take them to an animal shelter. If they’re unapproachable, set out food, water and a temporary shelter (such as a small doghouse stuffed with straw for stray cats) and call your local animal shelter for help humanely trapping them and getting them out of the cold.
If you see any animal deprived of adequate shelter, food, water or other basic necessities, please notify authorities immediately.
The frigid weather may be an uncomfortable inconvenience for us, but for forgotten animals who have no escape from it, it’s deadly.
Lindsay Pollard-Post is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; PETA.org.