This week was a hard one for many across the United States and beyond. It was a week of harsh weather, some of which caused much devastation. Seeing all of the news posts about animals being left out in the cold was hard for me. Real hard. Real maddening. In fact, late one night, I received an urgent message from a friend who had clicked to read a news article on social media with graphic pictures of dogs who had died in the cold weather. She clicked on the article even though she knew it would affect her for days. She remarked that she thought that she was “strong enough” to handle it. She also wanted to know what we could do to save the animals being left outside in freezing temperatures. Was there really anything that we could do?
I pride myself on being strong to handle some of the aspects of animal rescue. But in reality, are any of us “strong enough” to handle articles and pictures like the ones that had affected my friend? I can’t say that I am, even though I have been exposed to more information than I would like for many years. But what I did know was that I had to find a way to use this opportunity of trying to help a friend feel better, to also find a way to help the animals. I had to. As much as I believe that graphic pictures and stories are unnecessary, I do know that they make an impact. But is this impact reaching the right hearts and the right people? Is simply sharing a social media meme or graphic about not leaving your pets out in the cold enough? I thought about this as I was trying to find a way to help my friend feel better. I asked myself a few questions.
Were the people who were actually leaving their pets out in the cold to die looking at social media calls for action?
Would they see a picture or a graphic and think to themselves, “oh, I shouldn’t be a monster and do what I am about to do”. I don’t think that they would. They would be busy doing other things, perhaps working late jobs, forgetting about their pets. Maybe they are depressed, or maybe they just don’t care about their pets at all. Maybe they were raised to think that pets were “meant to be outside”. So would sharing a plea to not leave your pets outside reach these ones? I am not saying that you shouldn’t share these kinds of posts. We all need reminders. But I think that we all have to go a few steps further.
First of all, we have to be observant. If we see a pet left outside, DO SOMETHING. What is that something that you can do? You are going to have to look up laws in your state, country, area and find out what legal rights you have to step in or to contact the authorities. And if you don’t know? Then call the police and ask them. We can’t use the excuse that they will do nothing. We don’t know unless we call.
Did you know that in fact leaving a pet out in the cold is considered neglect in all 50 states? Yes. The people that think pets have fur, are meant to live outside and can handle it are wrong. Plain wrong. And for those of us that care, it means that we have to do something, even if we are on the way to a fancy dinner, the grocery store or taking a walk. So what can you do? One of our favorite celebrity dogs wrote this information down for you. Rambo The Puppy breaks it down.
Here are Ram’s tips quoted directly from his pawsome blog:
take notice of a pet who is suffering outside in the cold.
don’t ignore the situation or brush it off as something somebody else will notice and do something about. someone else probably already came along who thought that same thing. be the “somebody else” who does something about it.
pause. grab a pen and paper, or that nifty computer thing you keep in your pocket (ahem, your cell phone, people!). take note of the date, time, exact location, and a description of the animals involved and the environment they are in. if you can take a picture or video, even better!
if you don’t know the exact address, before you leave the location drop a pin on apple maps (iPhone instructions here) or on google maps (android instructions here). you can share this information with law enforcement later!
hop on google.
search “animal control [your city/county] phone number” to find the number to call for your local animal control agency.
if your town does not have an animal control agency, find the # for your county sheriff’s office. (also available on google – three cheers for the internet!)
alternatively, you can use this handy dandy map to locate contact information for local law enforcement agencies.
pick up the phone, and dial the number for your local animal control or law enforcement agency during normal business hours (which are usually 9am to 5pm).
when they pick up, tell them that you want to report a pet in distress who has been left out in the cold for too long by its schmuckface owner, and would they pretty please do something about it right meow?
psst, don’t forget to take detailed notes! write down who it is you speak with and on what day/at what time. this is so that you can follow up in a few days if you notice the situation has not been remedied.
did you know?
you can file an anonymous complaint about animal neglect with your local animal control or law enforcement agency! this means you can help an animal in need without worry. please don’t let “i don’t want them to know who i am! or tell anyone that i called! ahhh! i’m so embarrassed for being a good person!” get in the way of you helping out a pet in need. (but seriously, okay???)
if you need additional advice, or if you’re having an especially difficult time getting ahold of the right people, you can call the humane society of the united states monday through friday 8am est to 11pm est, and saturdays and sundays between 9am est and 6pm est: 866-720-2676
please note: the humane society of the united states can only give you advice. they can’t actually do anything about the neglected animal. because that is up to YOU, amigo.
PLEASE DON’T TURN A BLIND EYE. YOU COULD BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH FOR A HELPLESS PET. “
Thanks Rambo The Puppy. You can find him on Facebook here. We love him.
These are things we can do NOW. But…what can we do for the longterm to prevent this from happening over and over again? Education. Teaching children the proper ways to take care of their pets. Be an example. If a friend or family member isn’t doing the right thing, tell them. Speak up.
Social media is a wonderful way to reach hearts. But we have to go beyond that. We have to actually get out from behind our computers and phones and do something sometimes beyond sharing a post. Keep warm everyone and keep caring! Keep making a difference. You could be the difference between life and death to one animal. And isn’t that one animal worth saving?
-Rachael Johnson, Owner, Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs