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Because temperatures are dropping below freezing, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a series of tips for keeping pets safe.

Pets are especially vulnerable in cold weather and winter storms, which lead to multiple deaths, injuries, and near-miss rescues each year. Most are not reported. 

The following steps can go a long way toward helping animals survive cold weather.

Bring them indoors: Companion animals should always live indoors. Dogs who are kept chained up outside and outdoor cats — like those featured in Breaking the Chain, a documentary produced by Oscar winner Anjelica Huston — often go without adequate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. They’re no better equipped to survive freezing temperatures or extreme weather conditions than humans are, they suffer terribly from frostbite, and they can die from exposure.

Gear up: Coats will keep dogs comfortable in cold weather but be sure to remove wet jackets the moment dogs return home. Secure harnesses can help prevent them from getting loose on walks, and booties will protect their sensitive paw pads from the frozen ground. Keep walks short in cold weather, especially for short-haired dogs.

Don’t forget birds: During extreme winter weather, provide birds and other wild animals with access to an emergency water supply by filling a heavy non-metal water bowl — tongues can freeze to metal — and breaking the surface ice at least twice a day.

Good Samaritans who see companion animals kept chained or penned outside 24/7 or without adequate shelter from the elements should note the animals’ exact location and alert local law-enforcement authorities immediately. 

If officers don’t respond, call PETA at 757-622-PETA. Anyone who leaves animals outside to suffer in severe weather may be prosecuted.