CHICAGO — Before you think about taking your pooch out to play when temperatures plummet below zero again, or leaving your furry friend on a front porch, be advised that animal lovers are voicing their concerns to authorities.
Calls to the city's Animal Care and Control agency during a three-day period have tripled over the same time last year, officials said Wednesday.
"We have recently seen an increase of inhumane treatment of animals by their owners, most of which are weather-related," said Brad Powers, a spokesman for Chicago Animal Care and Control.
According to Powers, the agency received a total of 100 reports of inhumane treatment of animals from Sunday to Tuesday.
This compares with 54 inhumane treatment reports last year from Dec. 29-31, and 31 inhumane treatment reports last year from Jan. 5-7.
From Jan. 5-7, as the city was dubbed "Chiberia" and wind chills plunged to 45 below zero, the city responded to as many animal abuse calls as possible, Powers said.
"There were multiple animal control units working throughout the city to address requests for service. We are actively responding to reports of citizens leaving animals outdoors on their property for long periods of time," he said.
Pet owners should not allow pets to be outdoors in extreme conditions, Powers said.
Powers said that as the agency responds to the calls, "We assess the situation on a case-by-case basis and determine whether a violation to the ordinance or state law has occurred."
In West Town on Wednesday, an Animal Care and Control investigator visited a home in the 1400 block of West Fry Street, where two dogs were allegedly outdoors for long periods of time.
Powers said the agency offers pet safety tips online.
During the cold snap, he advised the following to pet owners:
• Do not leave dogs outdoors for long periods of time.
• Do not leave your pet in your vehicle unattended.
• Protect your pet from the conditions as much as possible (and as much as the pet will tolerate)
• Avoid antifreeze, rock salt and other pet irritants on the ground (If your pet encounters these elements, wipe the pet's paws clean as soon as possible).
• As soon as you return indoors with your pet, towel dry your pet’s coat.
• Before you go to start your car, bang on your hood. Wildlife may have crawled into your engine compartment as temporary shelter.
• Know your dog. Puppies do not tolerate the cold very well at all. Small breed short-haired dogs also do not do well in cold weather.
In extreme weather there are additional concerns:
• Frostbite is a real danger, particularly on the paws, nose, tail and ears. Frostbitten tissue may initially appear pale or gray, as well as hard and cold to the touch. As the area thaws, it may turn red. Thawing is very painful.
• Signs of hypothermia include: weak pulse, dilated pupils, decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue mucus membranes, stupor and unconsciousness. If you believe your pet is suffering from hypothermia, call your veterinarian immediately.