With temps dropping, animals need to be inside

Published 8:30 am Friday, January 6, 2023

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By the time Friday rolls around, this warm weather will be gone, replaced with lows dropping into the mid 20s. In fact, from Friday through all of next week, it’s going to feel a lot more like regular winter again. That means it’s time to take precautions.

As preparations are made to keep everyone in the home safe, don’t forget about the ones outside. A popular phrase that circles around this time of year, popping up on social media and billboards, is “if you’re cold they’re cold, bring them inside.” The question is how cold is too cold for outdoor dogs? Luckily, the Southside Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA) has the answers.

According to Virginia law, leashed and tethered dogs cannot be left outside once the temperature gets to 32 degrees or below. Any tethered or leashed dogs left outside could face legal consequences.

This law does not technically apply to outdoor dogs who are fenced in and aren’t technically on a leash or tether. Despite this technicality, it can still be up to the discretion of Animal Control if the dog is being properly taken care of if called to investigate. According to Francee Schuma, assistant director of Southside SPCA, sometimes outdoor dogs can also not be getting enough food or water due to being out of sight and out of mind.

“It’s not fair for these dogs to be out in the cold because they are honestly stuck out there,” said Schuma.


Even though dogs’ fur provides a bit of protection from the cold, it’s not as much as it seems. Even dogs with long and thick fur can get frostbite or hypothermia, causing organs to shut down when left in the cold. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), many of these tethered dogs are pit bulls that have short fur that leaves them especially vulnerable to the weather.

When the temperature is cold but not quite cold enough to bring the dogs inside there are other options to keep them safe. A doghouse or type of shelter is very important to protect against the cold and other elements. Straw is also recommended to help the dogs stay warm as blankets can get wet and freeze making the situation worse.

If anyone is unsure or needs help they should not hesitate to reach out to Animal Control for assistance. According to Schuma, Animals Control and other animal rescue services may have extra crates or supplies to help temporarily bring these dogs inside during the winter.

“The chances of getting in trouble are so much less when you ask for help,” said Schuma. “Animal Control is there to work with people. The stigma of not asking for help needs to be removed.”