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Protect your pets from the cold or face $999 fine, jail time

Colorado pet owners need to protect their pets from extreme temperatures this weekend.

DENVER — With below-freezing temperatures settling in Colorado for the weekend, Denver Animal Protection is issuing a stern warning for residents to take the proper precautions to protect their pets from the elements.

The best way to protect pets from extreme temperatures is to avoid long-term outdoor exposure. 

Denver Animal Protection said if pets must be outside for longer durations, Denver city ordinance requires pets have adequate outdoor shelter such as a doghouse, porch area, or a similar structure that allows the animal to escape the elements. Further insulating the shelter or adding a “doggie door” to a garage or covered area adds another layer of protection from the cold.

Failure to protect animals from the cold could be deadly for pets and, for owners, lead to a Cruelty to Animals or Animal Neglect charge, up to a $999 fine and/or a year in jail for the owner.

Denver Animal Protect also reminds drivers to bang on their hoods before driving because stray cats often look for refuge in warm engines.

The Denver Dumb Friends League offered the following tips for pet safety as it gets colder:

  • Don't leave tiny, short-haired, or very young or old dogs outside without supervision. Warm sweaters or doggy coats will keep them comfortable on walks. Long-haired, larger dogs and those with double coats (like the Nordic breeds) may enjoy the cold and snow, but they, too, should live primarily indoors with the family.
  • Dogs that spend time outdoors need plenty of fresh water available. They can't burn calories without water, and if they can't burn calories, they can't keep warm. Also, use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one; when the temperature is low, a dog's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
  • Make sure your pets have a warm place to sleep in the house that's off the floor and away from drafts.
  • Keep your dog's coat well groomed. Matted fur won't protect her from the cold.
  • After a walk, wipe her feet, legs and stomach area to prevent ingestion of salt or dangerous chemicals. For your own walkways, use a pet-friendly ice-melt product.
  • Never let dogs off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Make sure they are always wearing ID tags and have a microchip.
  • Check your garage and driveway for antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that attracts animals. Wipe up any spills right away. Better yet, use pet-safe antifreeze, which is made with propylene glycol. If ingested in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife or your family.
  • Never leave a pet alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  • If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on your car hood or honk the horn before starting the engine. In their search to stay warm, outdoor cats often take refuge next to a warm car engine or tire.
  • Keep snow from piling up high next to your fence. A packed snowdrift will provide a boost for dogs to escape the confines of your yard.
  • Consider the amount of exercise your dogs receive during colder weather, and adjust their food supply accordingly. Inside and lazy? Less food. Outside and active? More food may be needed to produce more body heat. Consult your veterinarian to be sure.

For information about Denver’s Animal Protection ordinances or additional pet safety tips, visit denveranimalshelter.org.

RELATED: Keep your pets safe as arctic temps come to Colorado

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