Freezing temperatures and protecting pets

SAN LUIS VALLEY — Winter in the San Luis Valley tends to be a harsh season. Freezing temperatures are the norm, and it is common for temperatures to dip well below zero.  
Some years the temperatures have dipped so far below zero that the San Luis Valley has been the coldest spot in the nation. This bitter cold can be dangerous for animals left outside all night. Although they have fur coats it is often not enough to keep out the biting cold. Thankfully, there are many ways that pet owners can help keep their furry friends warm.  
It is a good idea to remove snow, ice, salt, and other ice treatment chemicals from their fur and paws. This helps keep them dry and prevents them from ingesting any chemicals found in the ice treatment. You should also check their paw pads for any cracks and make sure there is no redness between their toes. Massaging petroleum jelly into their paw pads before going outdoors can help protect them from salt and chemical agents. Dog booties can also provide extra protection.
Another important pet safety rule is to never leave your animal alone in a car during cold weather. In the winter cars trap frigid air becoming refrigerators on wheels. Also, it is always a good idea to check under the hood of outdoor vehicles before you start them. Outdoor cats often seek refuge from the cold by huddling against still warm engines.
It is also important to make sure you are feeding your animals a little more in the winter and providing them with lots of water. The chilly temperatures will cause them to burn calories faster and make it harder for them to stay hydrated.
Monte Vista Code Enforcement Officer-Community Service Officer Manvuel Lopez shared some of the things he looks for when it comes to keeping pets warm.
“What I look for is if the animal is tethered that they have full access to food and drinkable water, which is not frozen,” Lopez said. “Also, an animal must be provided with some sort of shelter to keep them safe from the weather. This could be a doghouse or an overhang with some means for the animal to escape the snow or whatever weather is current for the season we are currently in.”  
Officer Lopez said that there is nothing code specific to leaving animals outside in the winter weather. However, he shared that it may fall under Municipal Code 8-14-20(b) cruelty to animals.
The code states, “A person commits cruelty to animals if he or she knowingly or with criminal negligence overdrives, overloads, overworks, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, carries or confines in or upon any vehicles in a cruel or reckless manner, otherwise mistreats or neglects any animal or causes or procures it to be done, or, having the charge or custody of any animal, fails to provide it with proper food, drink or protection from the weather.”
Officer Lopez explained that if someone is found in violation of this code it is the officer’s discretion whether to issue a citation or warning.
“Every situation is different and with that said every situation is handled differently,” Lopez said. “If an animal is severely neglected due to these circumstances then it is upon myself or MVPD officers to protect and help the animal currently facing these types of hardships. It also needs to be pointed out that there are situations where animals are naturally adapted to survive harsh conditions. So, the current health of said animal needs to be looked at as well as living conditions.”
Officer Lopez also said that as the current Monte Vista Code Enforcement Officer-Community Service Officer, he wants to try and educate before having to enforce.
“These questions are a great opportunity for just that,” Lopez said. “I would encourage the residents of Monte Vista to reach out to me and ask questions if they are unsure of what may be a violation of Municipal Code.”