City of Morgantown provides pet and animal safety tip for the winter

Pet owner and her two dogs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The City of Morgantown is asking pet owners to remain vigilant this winter to ensure their pets’ warmth and safety.

In a press release, the city reminded the public that there is a code to abide by when leaving pets outside in extreme weather.

Morgantown City Code Section 505.03 and 505.031 states that it is illegal in city limits to tether your animal outside for more than 30 minutes if the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

The animal should not be tethered outside for more than 30 minutes if the weather conditions outside would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of your pet or service animal, based on the animal’s size, age, physical condition, or thickness of the animal’s hair or fur. The penalty for violating this ordinance is a $300 – $500 fine and/or jail time. 

City of Morgantown
Dog left outside during winter

Dana Johnson, director of Monongalia Co. Animal Control and K-9 Adoption Center, said city code also requires that a pet is provided a four-wall shelter if it’s going to be left alone outside. That shelter should have a door, roof, bed, fresh water, and ample food for the pet.

The good rule of thumb to remember, she said, is that you should take your pets outside and play with them rather than leaving them alone outside. This is a good rule to keep in mind because if you get cold, you can rest assured your pet is also cold, Johnson said.

“It’s just really important for people, pet owners, to use common sense and to be vigilant about the codes and what is legal and what is not,” Johnson said. And back to the common sense, this a family member, so look at it as if you’re the same thing goes for your dog as it would for your child really when it comes to cold weather. A lot of people might say ‘my dog is a breed that loves the snow’ — I’ve not met a dog that really doesn’t love being inside of a home. I really have not, so it’s very important that you pay attention to the code.”

The city also provided additional tips in its press release that Johnson also supports.

According to the release, the Humane Society of the United States has provided tips to keep your pets safe and warm during the winter season: 

  • Keep pets sheltered: Keep your pets indoors with you and your family. Pet cats should never be left outdoors, even if they roam outside during warmer seasons. If your dog is outdoors majority of the day for any reason, they must be protected in a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough for them to move freely, but small enough to retain body heat. 
  • Bundle up, wipe down: No matter what the temperature is, the windchill can threaten a pet’s life. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during walks. To keep short-haired pets comfortable, it is recommended to provide them with a sweater or jacket when out for a walk. When returning from a walk, be sure to wipe down pet paws with a damp towel to remove potentially poisonous chemicals and irritants used to melt snow and ice. 
  • Protect outdoor animals: Be sure your livestock animals and horses have access to a barn or three-sided structure so they can escape from the wind and cold. Always give your animals access to unfrozen water and be sure to feed them more during extreme cold to allow them to create more heat to regulate their body temperature. 
  • Speak out: If you encounter a pet left in the cold, politely let the owner know you are concerned. If someone you raise concerns with responds poorly or continues to neglect their animals, please call the Monongalia County Canine Adoption Center at 304-291-7267.  
Pets out for a walk during winter

If you’re not a pet owner and none of the above applies to you, or you’re a pet owner with room for another, Johnson recommends adoption. Especially, she said, if you are home a lot, work from home or are able to spend time with animals.

“It’s a great time to form a relationship when you’re home all the time with an animal,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of homeless pets in this county and in this state that need homes, so just keep that in mind.”

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