CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As the weather gets colder and crueler, the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, as well as Attorney General Mark Herring, are reminding everyone to take care of their furry friends.
Herring is telling pet owners and law enforcement that animals cannot be left out in the cold without adequate care. If they are, owners can face serious consequences.
“We’re starting to get into the middle of winter,” Herring said. “I thought it would be a good time to get the message out to Virginians and pet owners that it’s really important to make sure that you’re providing shelter and keeping your pets warm.”
Under Virginia law, leaving an animal in the cold with inadequate shelter can be considered animal cruelty, which is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
“In other circumstances, animal control officers could seize a pet, but we don’t want that to happen,” Herring said. “It’s one of the reasons why I created the country’s first-ever animal law unit within the attorney general’s office in order to strengthen our animal cruelty laws.”
Angie Gunter is the Executive Director of the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA and has tips on how to care for pets in severe, cold weather.
“If it’s too cold for you outside, if you’re feeling cold, and your pet is likely cold,” Gunter said.
Sadly, Gunter says the animal shelter sees some troubling cases this time of year.
“We do see cats that have been under the hood of a car,” she said. “Sometimes they make it and sometimes they don’t. We treat them for burns often.”
She says you can take steps to prevent an incident like that.
“When you’re starting your car in the morning, tap on the hood and beep the horn because oftentimes we find that cats go underneath the hood, because they’re trying to find warmth,” she said.
While Gunter says they often see more felines left outside, it does happen with dogs as well.
“For dogs, if they are left outside just like a person, I mean you can freeze to death,” she said. “We see some troubling cases, not too many I will say with dogs that I have seen, but I know they’re out there.”
Another quick tip, Gunter and the rest of the shelter encourages not shaving or grooming your pet too much as their fur coat is crucial to their warmth this time of year.
If you have a short-haired dog, Gunter says you can put a sweater or a coat on them.