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Keep your pets safe and warm this winter

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - As another arctic blast sweeps across southwest Oklahoma, we'll all be doing our best to keep things warm inside the house, but what about our pets who spend time outdoors?

Every winter Lawton Animal Welfare gets flooded with calls from concerned citizens who see pets outside in the cold. There is a Lawton City Ordinance in place that requires all pets--cats, dogs, and other small animals--to have access to food, water and proper shelter to protect them from the weather.

Lawton Animal Welfare Field Supervisor Roy Rodrick says responding to the calls of animal mistreatment this time of year is never easy.

"It breaks your heart to see them standing there, they're shivering and shaking, they're freezing, you want to do everything you can for them,” Rodrick said.

Rodrick said they receive lots of calls for animal cruelty this time of year. He says many of those calls are simply from people who pass by a home and see a dog outside in the cold and, most of the time, the owners of the dog are following the law. Those who aren't following the law will receive either a warning or a citation, depending on the severity of the situation. But that can change if the owner is not home when they respond.

"Depending on the situation, we may just leave a note on the door to have them contact us,” Rodrick said. “In the event of an inclement weather situation where it's down in the 20s, maybe the teens, if the animal is a short-haired dog we do have the option that we can go ahead and impound the animal at the time and hold it for the owner."

The food and water requirements of the ordinance are pretty cut and dry but the requirements for shelter go a bit more in-depth.

"It has to be structurally sound, large enough for the animal to stand up, turn around. Small enough to retain their body heat,” Rodrick said.

Rodrick said that is just the bare minimum for taking care of your pets.

"You've got a dog house out there, you need bedding in it, a blanket, some straw hay. Something to hold the body heat,” said Rodrick. “There's a lot more you can do, a heat lamp, there's things you can do above and beyond what the code requires and that's really a good thing if you do that."

Rodrick says the best solution is to simply remove the problem completely.

"Even if they have a dog house, they can still have repercussions, health repercussions from the temperature extremes so it's a good idea to bring them in. Bring them inside the house, section off an area, the utility room, the garage, somewhere where they can come in during the night,” Rodrick said.

Rodrick said you should never hesitate to call animal control to investigate if you see something that concerns you.

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