Watch Tip: Shelter from the Storm

Posted on April 30th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for week of May 2:

Watch and listen for stray pets after thunderstorms—they might be lost and frightened. In your neighborhood, do outside backyard pets have shelter from storms? A tree, shrub or overhanging eave is not a shelter. Owners are required by law to provide shelter nearly everywhere in America. Be a Good Samaritan and have a helpful conversation with the owners.

Spring brings violent storms

Many companion animals suffer from fear of loud noises, especially loud thunder. (This is usually not an indication of abuse.) Some will run in terror and become hopelessly lost, because the rain may obliterate scents and backtracking becomes difficult or impossible. Watch for unfamiliar dogs and cats in your neighborhood, especially after a storm. Help them. If they are wearing identification tags and they are friendly, their families will be so thankful to get your phone call.

What is adequate shelter?

For this poor dog, Bear, one of the “Topaz Creek” dogs rescued by Pet Adoption and Welfare Society (PAWS) in British Columbia, Canada in 2002, adequate shelter was nowhere to be found. He and his pack lived outdoors year around, tied to trees and stumps. Look at the pinched, worried expression and dropped ears, and you know that human visitors were not to be trusted. As events would prove, he and his pack were very hungry and many were sick or wounded, some incurably so. (Bear lived, was socialized and later was adopted into a loving home.)

Common legislation will specify adequate shelter as being permanent, waterproof and windproof. It should be constructed of durable materials and be structurally sound. Some legislation additionally requires ventilation and/or sufficient insulation to protect from inclement weather. Some legislation requires straw or wood chips.  The entrance should face away from prevailing winds. The shelter should have three sides and an impermeable roof. In some legislation, a raised (non-dirt) floor is required.

Some legislation specifies size requirements. The interior height should allow for the dog to stand upright, while the width allows for turning around. However, overlarge interior space for the size of the dog can make insulation less effective. Entrances that are too large can also be a problem.

Surrounding space should be clean and free of debris or obstacles that might interfere with movement. Fresh water and food are required, along with regular veterinary care.

Will outside dogs learn to protect the house?

Some people keep chained or kenneled outside dogs outside as protection from unwanted visitors. The dog’s barking alerts family members of approaching visitors. But ironically, often these dogs won’t learn to protect the house or family members. The dogs simply have no knowledge of the home as territory or of humans as pack members. Protective dogs are those who live in the house and as a member of a human family.

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