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Keeping Animals Safe In Frigid Winter Cold!

Updated: Mar 5

We're from Minnesota, so we know cold!

  • Are you feeling concerned with the severely cold weather coming in?

  • Wondering if animals will be okay outdoors as the temperatures drop to nearly 50 below with wind chills?!

  • Worried about all the farm animals you're seeing on your way to work?

  • Curious on how to keep your house pets comfortable and happy?

I'm right there with you!

Problem is, not everyone feels as though animals need some help from us in surviving harsh climates!

The good news is: You can be an advocate for safety & animal welfare!

As a former State Humane Agent, I'm very familiar with the laws regarding animal abuse, cruelty & neglect.

One of the topics I was trained on: WEATHER.

A very important subject that everyone should be familiar with!

This post will cover:

  • Weather related laws (in MN)

  • Tips for keeping dogs and cats safe in the cold

  • How to keep farm & other animals safe/ comfortable outdoors

  • Ways to keep your indoor pets happy while stuck inside

  • Tips for exotics

  • When/ how to report wrongful outdoor keeping of animals


Just because most animals have fur, doesn't mean they should be left to brave the cold alone.

Dogs and cats naturally have a higher body temperature than we do! Sow when their temp drops, it can be serious!

"Normal human body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C).
Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is 101.0 to 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C)."


Be on the Lookout!

Winter comes with many risks..

Watch for pets or other animals who are abandoned, injured or neglected.

Animals being kept outside should be monitored closely and checked on often for signs of distress.

Frostbite & hypothermia are very serious and may be considered a medical emergency in most cases!

Small animals are at an increased risk for weather-related injury of distress.

*Keep in mind, some dogs can handle frigid weather with their double coats, and many have been specifically bred for hard work in winter.

They may prefer to be outside even against their owner's wishes and demands. These breeds are usually large and have thick double coats, they include:

  • Siberian Husky

  • Alaskan Malamute

  • Great Pyrenees

  • Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Saint Bernard

  • Newfoundland

  • Samoyed

  • Tibetan Mastiff

Some of these dog breeds originated in Alaska and Canada and are well equipped to handle cold climates! The Newfoundland, for example, is well known in their superior ability for water rescue in frigid temps!

The Husky has been well known as a top sled racer in the harsh winter climate of Alaska! You may have heard of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race?! I have been a fan and follower for decades! It is nearly a thousand miles of rugged backwoods trails, raced in the winter time by highly dedicated teams!

Keeping a thick, double coated dog can be confusing for some owners, as they may think the dog is too hot, and therefore: they shave them.

Often times, this mistake in shaving double coated breeds, does more harm than good. This coat serves a purpose in both hot and cold temperatures and shaving could put your pet's health at serious risk!

But just because some breeds can withstand the subzero temps (to an extent), doesn't mean they should be purposely left outside to fend for themselves.


Animal-Related Weather Laws in MN

💗 If you are from another state. I suggest getting familiar with your local laws!

Here are a few Minnesota highlights.

🐎 Equine:

"Equines must be provided with clean, potable water in sufficient quantity to satisfy the animal's needs or supplied by free choice. Snow or ice is not an adequate water source."
"Equines must be provided a minimum of free choice protection or constructed shelter from adverse weather conditions, including direct rays of the sun in extreme heat or cold, wind, or precipitation."

🐾 Dog houses:

"The shelter shall include a moistureproof and windproof structure of suitable size to accommodate the dog and allow retention of body heat. It shall be made of durable material with a solid, moistureproof floor or a floor raised at least two inches from the ground. Between November 1 and March 31 the structure must have a windbreak at the entrance. The structure shall be provided with a sufficient quantity of suitable bedding material consisting of hay, straw, cedar shavings, blankets, or the equivalent, to provide insulation and protection against cold and dampness and promote retention of body heat."

🐱 Dogs & cats:

"Dogs and cats must be provided with clean, potable water in sufficient quantity to satisfy the animal's needs or supplied by free choice. Snow or ice is not an adequate water source."

Please click the Source links to read the statues as well as the subdivisions within those for more laws and regulations.

🤷 These may seem self explanatory... But it's important to know that these BASIC Requirements for comfort and sustainability of an animal are often ignored.

View more animal-related laws in Minnesota.


Keeping Animals Safe:

Cold Weather Tips!

Dogs & Cats:

  • Be sure your pets are microchipped and have tags on their collar! If your dog if cat gets loose, this will help get them back home safely!

  • Avoid walking your dog during extreme temperatures. They will forgive you for skipping out! Safety comes first!

  • Consider increasing your pet's food intake (especially if outdoors) & providing seasonal dietary support. They may need the extra nourishment to stay warm!

  • Keep your pets happy and entertained indoors with toy puzzles!

  • Consider using an organic balm and booties to protect their paws from ice and salt!

  • Invest in a doggy sweater to keep them warm!

  • Avoid bathing your pets during cold weather. Not to say you shouldn't, but limit baths during months.

In The Home:

  • Add a humidifer to your home! Winter air is dry and irritating. Many people mistake itching for allergies, when it can actually just be dry skin!

  • Invest in an air purifier. Indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. As you're inside more in the colder months, it's important to have clean air to breathe!

  • Open the windows! Every few weeks I crack open the windows for a minutes just to let a fresh breeze in. It's glorious! Especially on days when the temps get above 30.

Outdoor Pets & Barn Animals:

  • Check on barn animals often! They need love and care, too!

  • Provide heated water dishes outdoors for strays or other outdoor animals.

  • Lay out extra hay for barn animals and strays

  • Refill the feeders and give the birds some extra seed!

  • Leave a dish of veggie scraps out for rabbits. They need to eat, too!!

Exotics & Pocket Pets:

  • Exotics, like reptiles, may need heat to stay alive. Consider purchasing hand warmers in preparation for winter storms to be used as an alternative heat source if the power goes out. Additionally, you may warm up rocks on a gas stove and wrap them in a towel or cloth and place them in the enclosure to provide heat. Do not feed your reptile if they are not at an optimal temperature, as they may have trouble digesting food.

View more cold weather safety tips from the AVMA here!

It's also important to be familiar with signs of frostbite & hypothermia and intervene when necessary!


When & How to Make A Report

If you see something, say something. 👀

Please do not hesitate to report neglected, abandoned, injured, or suffering animals to local authorities!

*Thick coated breeds may enjoy relaxing outside in the snow. No need to report this unless they are out for long periods or showing noticeable signs of discomfort (hunched down, shivering, etc).

Refer to the links above for the laws on proper/ suitable housing for outdoor/ farm animals. You can report cases of inadequate care as well (such as dog houses not having a windbreak).

To report cases of neglect, cruelty or abuse in Minnesota, please contact the Minnesota Federated Humane Society!

I am a former State Humane Agent with this organization, they do fantastic work!

You can also call your local police department, Sheriff's Office, or Animal Control to make a report.

More organizations are listed on the Resources page.

Together, we can educate others on proper animal care and save lives!❤


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