DETROIT -

With plummeting temperatures, the Michigan Humane Society urges owners to protect their pets with these cold weather safety tips:

  • Pets should not be left outside for any length of time. Be sure to bring small or short-haired pets indoors when temperatures reach 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to take into account precipitation and wind chill.
  • Cats should be kept indoors or at least brought into a warm, animal-proofed garage during severe weather.
  • Roaming cats often seek the warmth of car engines, so be sure to knock on the car hood or honk the horn before starting your car to startle them and give them a chance to escape.
  • Increase the amount of food your provide for dogs left outside by 10-20 percent during winter months. The extra calories are needed to keep them warm.
  • Access to clean, unfrozen water is critical. Check drinking water left outside every few hours to ensure it's unfrozen.

If an animal is cold to the touch, or his paws and ears are pale, he may be suffering from frostbite. Move the animal to a warmer area and call your vet immediately.

If pet owners leave their animals outdoors, they are required by Michigan law to provide enough food and water, as well as adequate shelter. MHS recommends an insulated, roofed dog house slightly elevated from the ground for good air circulation.

Clean, dry straw should be provided for bedding, rather than towels or blankets, which absorb moisture and freeze in frigid temperatures.

MHS is currently offering free straw for pets at the MHS Detroit Center for Animal Care, 7401 Chrysler Drive, between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.

To report pets left outside without proper shelter in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park, please call the MHS Cruelty Hotline at (313) 872-3401. A confidential message can be left 24 hours a day.

In other areas of the state, animal cruelty should be immediately reported to the local animal control or police department.