MADISON (WKOW) -- This winter, a new ordinance in Madison has officials looking closely at how long pets are outside in inclement weather.
Animal control officers with Public Health Madison & Dane County have been responding nearly everyday to reports from concerned callers.
Since December 26, 14 calls have come in across the county. Two calls were about horses who may not have had enough food and water in the cold, one call about cattle in the mud, a call about shelter and food for sheep, a call about stray cats hanging around a junkyard and even a call for goldfish trapped under ice in an outdoor pond. Most of the calls, eight, were for dogs tied up outside or in fenced yards in the cold.
Lead animal control officer Patrick Comfert tells 27 News all animals in those cases ended up being cared for properly and appeared healthy, but calls from concerned citizens are what help them find those who are not being cared for well. They follow up on every call and take action when necessary.
Madison City Council approved a new animal control ordinance a few months ago that now makes it illegal to leave a dog outside longer than 15 minutes on its own without shelter in inclement weather.
"That's weather like we're having right now, where the dog could freeze to death, [with] frostbite would suffer injury," says Comfert. "Same thing in the summer, if it was super hot and sunny and it was going to overheat."
Comfert says while it's always best to just bring the dog in when it's so cold, there are some breeds that do just fine outside with a shelter, like huskies or malamutes. Most importantly though, the dog house absolutely must have bedding for the dog to stay warm.
Many people use blankets or towels as bedding, but Comfert says that can actually make a dog colder if it gets wet and freezes. The best choice for bedding is straw or hay inside the shelter. The shelter should be not much larger than the dog itself to trap in its body heat. Owners should also make sure an animal in the cold is getting enough food and water to stay warm.