Letting your animals out to use the bathroom is a routine that needs to be kept up during the extreme cold, but any longer than a few minutes, and it could be a crime.
Animals can get hypothermia within five minutes in the extreme cold temperatures we've been having. On top of that, the cold can still be rough when they come in. Make sure you're wiping down paw pads and avoiding rock salt, because that can really injure animals.
By far the biggest harm is just being neglectful of time and leaving animals out. Police can seize animals if they're in real danger, and you can be fined.
"If you see something, if you're concerned, then give us a call. We would rather go check it out and it not be a big deal versus not getting a call and that animal passing away," St. Joseph Humane Society Executive Director Genny Carlson said. "It's really important that pets come inside. We will be giving citations and fines for those animals that we find outside. Their owners will be fined anywhere between $250 to $2,500. This is how serious it is."
Indoor pets may come to mind first, but you have to be aware of outdoor pets and livestock as well.
"Livestock and animals that live outside are going to be a little more used to this weather," Carlson said. "But no one that lives here is used to minus 50. That's very abnormal for us. That is not a normal thing. So, pets that live outside are going to have a hard time with that negative windchill that's going to be hitting us."
The best thing for those outside pets or livestock is having a temperature-controlled environment.
If you know of an animal who might not have a home to go back to or that you can't keep inside for some reason, the humane society has shelter available.
"We took in four dogs yesterday that were left out in the cold," Carlson said. "It's inappropriate and it's not going to happen on our watch. If people see animals that are outside and they have concerns, they can definitely call us. We are offering free boarding here at the shelter for outside dogs, cats and rabbits for those who live in our jurisdiction, which is all of St. Joe County, Indiana, except for South Bend city limits. Right now, we don't have enough room for our South Bend neighbors. But if we do, we'll open it up to them too."
If you need to contact the Humane Society, you can call them at 574-255-4726.
If you live within South Bend city limits, you will need to call Animal Care and Control at 574-235-9303.
The number for the Southwest Michigan Humane Society is 269-927-3303.
If you're in Elkhart County, the Humane Society's number is 574-848-4225.