The current winter has brought with it plummeting temperatures in many parts of Canada which has forced the issue of mistreatment of pets to the media forefront. The number of news stories is very likely the “tip of the iceberg” and represent countless dogs and cats and other types of pets who have experienced death by freezing or in the least, experienced extreme discomfort and illness. Pets left outside in low temperatures suffer from frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration, and weakened immune systems. Bladder infections can also ensue when animals will not leave their “shelters” to relieve themselves because it is just too cold. Some pets have been found literally frozen to the ground. It is unimaginable what they have suffered.  Simply and truthfully put: If it is too cold for you to go outside, it is too cold for your pet.

In hot temperatures, dogs and cats suffer from heat stroke bringing with it extreme discomfort, critical damage to their brain, heart, liver and nervous system, and all too often, death. A dog left in a parked car even on a mild day will die within seconds to minutes as the car temperature soars.

It must be realized that pets are the result of generations of domestication and do not possess the body traits or survival instincts to keep them alive and healthy in extreme cold and hot temperature conditions.

The following points are recommendations for inclusion in updated animal protection legislation to address the issue of leaving pets in extreme temperatures:

1) The right to seize an animal left in extreme temperatures is a matter of exigency; there is no analysis of distress of the animal, i.e., it is a given that they are in extreme distress.
2) The animal protection officer will have power to order the owner to take action immediately or immediate seizure of the animal will result.
3) The animal protection officer has the right to check on a pet without a warrant/there can be warrantless entry onto premises including land, dwellings and vehicles where it is believed that the animal is under extreme temperature conditions.
4) In general, the law needs to allow animal protection groups, such as the SPCA, to be more effective in dealing with owners.
5) Specifics are necessary for words such as “extreme hot and cold temperatures” and “adequate” (as in adequate food, water, and shelter).

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