City reminds on pet care as temps plunge

January 19, 2019

If you live in Fort Wayne and have a pet that spends time outdoors, you might want to check the city’s animal ordinance before the worst of this weekend’s wintry weather arrives.

The new provision prohibits dogs and owned cats from being kept outdoors : or indoors in a structure that is not temperature-controlled : when the temperature falls to 10 degrees or a wind chill warning is issued by a national, state or local authority.

The rule is part of a 76-page overhaul of the ordinance that passed in September. 

“This is the first time it’s been cold enough to trigger it,” said Holly Eggelston, marketing manager for Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control.

The agency issued a reminder about the provision on Friday : just as the National Weather Service was predicting 4 to 6 inches of snow in and around Fort Wayne today and wind chills that could dip to minus 15 degrees Sunday night and early Monday.

Eggelston said dogs should not be left outside in those conditions even if provided with a doghouse. Cats should be kept indoors.

However, community cats, which often are feral and shy away from human contact, are exempt from the ordinance, she said.

Community cats are not owned by a specific person but generally have a caretaker or caretakers who provide food and water, rudimentary shelter, spaying or neutering and medical care.

Animal Care & Control officials said animal shelters sufficient for temperatures above 10 degrees should be free of leaks and have an east- or south-facing entrance with a heavy flap to keep out wind.

Shelters should have insulation and be elevated above the ground.

Officials recommend straw or cedar chips : not towels or blankets : for bedding. Animal Care & Control can provide free straw and a limited number of free community cat houses, agency officials said.

Eggelston said keeping an animal in an unheated garage, barn or basement is not sufficient to comply with the ordinance.

Ideally, the structure should have some sort of heat, or a thermostat, she said.

However, enforcement of the ordinance is “complaint driven,” she said, adding that all violations carry a fine, but penalties depend on circumstances.

Animal Care & Control officials said pet owners should also be aware of other cold-weather needs : additional food to help generate body heat, continuous access to unfrozen water and extra care of paws to prevent salt irritation and ingestion and cuts from sharp snow and ice.

Those wishing to report a cold-weather pet concern can call 427-1244 during business hours or 449-3000 nights and weekends, Eggelston said.