It’s always important for dog owners to make sure their pets are safe and healthy, and aren’t exposed to danger.
We’ve seen many incidents about hot car deaths in which dogs left in vehicles suffer from fatal heat stroke, whose owners are frequently charged with animal abuse. But what about the opposite—dogs who are exposed to freezing cold temperatures?
That was the case for one dog who was left in the back of their owner’s pickup truck during a ride on a frigid day—prompting a debate about whether this was okay or constitutes abuse.
A woman in Aurora, Colorado snapped photos of the dog—apparently an Alaskan Malamute—riding in the open flatbed, covered in snow.
According to KDVR, the temperature was only 16 degrees, with a 0 degree windchill.
The photos made the rounds on social media, and people had mixed reactions: some were outraged, others defended the owner by saying the dog was well-suited for these kinds of temperatures.
“I think he’s probably loving it,” one Twitter user wrote. “He was made for snow.”
“I don’t see nothing wrong with this photo,” wrote another. “The husky seems to be in his natural environment.”
However, the dog may have been in more danger than you’d expect.
“That’s just a recipe for disaster,” Dr. Missy Tasky, a veterinarian at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital, told KDVR. “It’s just not an ideal situation for that guy.”
She says that being exposed for a period of time with nowhere to go would be “problematic.”
“That breed of dog can withstand extreme temperatures, extreme cold a lot better than the average dog,” Dr. Tasky added. “But in general, just like for people, they can get frostbite … it could cause their blood pressure to drop, their heart rate to drop.”
So was this illegal, and can the owner/driver be charged with animal abuse? That’s complicated.
Colorado State Patrol says that it is legal to drive with your dog in a pickup truck flatbed, even with the door open, but the weather conditions could merit a cruelty charge.
“The law is not cut and dry on this but the driver could be cited with a violation of animal cruelty if there was enough evidence,” a statement reads.
The department told KDVR that it would ultimately be a judgement call based on factors like the temperature, the breed of the dog and the appearance of the dog.
It remains to be seen if any legal action will actually be taken. But regardless, take the professional’s advice: even winter dogs are at risk, and it’s better to keep your dogs as safe as possible.
“It’s heartbreaking to see that,” Dr. Tasky said.
Winter is coming fast and temperatures are dropping—this is an important reminder to keep our dogs safe from extreme weather!
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