LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Animal wardens in Roanoke and Lynchburg are getting more calls to check on pets left outside in the cold weather. On New Year’s day, one of those checks ended with a Lynchburg officer finding a dog that died after a night in freezing temperatures.
The case is still under investigation and charges are pending, but Lynchburg Animal Control says owners who leave dogs outside without adequate shelter will be charged with animal cruelty.
“In this cold week we've gotten anywhere between 4-6 calls per day,” said Officer Danny Marks.
Monday, Officer Marks was called to check on a dog that was left outside, when he got there he found another dog left out that didn't make it. Both animals were in dog houses and tied up.
“This dog did have a shelter, but it wasn't adequate being that it didn't have a bottom to it. So basically the dog was just lying on the ground,” said Marks.
A fatality is rare. Marks says the last one he remembers was a year and a half ago. It is the first of the season. They usually happen in colder weather and owners could face serious consequences.
“Class one misdemeanor, and you could receive up to 12 months in jail and $2500 fine if you're convicted of a class one,” said Marks.
The second dog that Marks found was surrendered to the Lynchburg Humane Society.
“It’s hard for me to understand pets being outside in this weather and it saddens me that there are animals suffering,” said Makena Yarbrough, Executive Director of the Humane Society. “So we want to help those people that have pets outside.”
The Humane Society is offering free blankets, towels and linens to anyone who needs to pad the bottom of dog houses. They'll also help provide crates so animals can be brought inside.
“They may have fur coats per say, but it really isn't sufficient enough to keep them warm- obviously,” aid Yarbrough.
Officers with Roanoke Police Department did point out that they can only take action if a shelter is deemed inadequate. That includes size of the shelter and if the animal’s legs and feet are protected from the ground.
LPD and RPD suggested best practice is for animals to be inside.
“Rule of thumb is- when it gets below freezing bring the animals in,” said Marks.