(WTAJ) — With freezing temperatures in full swing in Pennsylvania, it’s important to keep in mind that pets are just as susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite and even death if left outside for longer than 30 minutes.

In 2017, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf updated animal cruelty restrictions, saying animals are not to be left outside for more than 30 minutes in 90+ or -32-degree weather. Owners who fail to adhere to this legislation will face criminal charges.

So, what do you do if you see a pet left outside in winter weather conditions?

Gather evidence

Take note of the date, time, exact location as well as the type of animal(s) involved. Take video and photos of the animal to help bolster the case. As many details as possible will help local authorities.

Contact local non-emergency line

Call your local non-emergency line and provide them with your detailed report so they can begin investigating the case. A list of who to call can be found below:

Bedford County: 814-623-1105 (Bedford Police Department non-emergency)

City of Altoona: 814-949-2499 (Altoona City Police Department)
Blair County: 814-942-3780 (Blair County Humane Society)

Cambria County: 814-472-2100 (Cambria County Emergency Services)

Cameron County: 814-486-9332 (Cameron County Sheriff’s Department)

Centre County: 1-800-479-0050 (Centre County Emergency Communications)

Clearfield County: 814-765-2641 (Clearfield County Sheriff’s Office)

Elk County: 814-776-4600 (Elk County Office of Emergency Services)

Huntingdon County: 1-800-373-0209 (Huntingdon County non-emergency)

Jefferson County: 814-849-1617 (Jefferson County non-emergency)

Somerset County: 814-445-1525 (Somerset County 911 non-emergency)

Know the facts

One of the most common forms of animal cruelty is pets being left outside in dangerous weather conditions, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Animal cruelty is considered a misdemeanor crime, although owners will face felony charges applied in animal neglect resulting in death in Pennsylvania.

Cold weather animal safety

To help ensure your pets stay safe during cold weather, the American Veterinary Medical Association provided the following tips:

  • Winter wellness: Cold weather may worsen medical conditions in pets, such as arthritis. Call or visit your local veterinarian to make sure your pet is as healthy as possible
  • Know the limits: Cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat, activity level and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather and adjust accordingly. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold tolerate, but they are still at risk in cold weather conditions
  • Recognize problems: Pets who start whining, shivering, seem anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems week, or starts looking for warm places to burrow should be taken inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and it may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. Consult your veterinarian immediately
  • Stay inside: Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. Like people, they are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia – even dogs such as huskies or Alaskan Malamutes
  • Check your vehicle: A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for feral cats. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood and honk the horn before starting the engine
  • Check their paws: Check your pet’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden sluggishness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between its toes
  • Dress them up: If your pet has a short coat, invest in a sweater/coat and/or boots each time your pet goes outside
  • Wipe them down: During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up de-icers, antifreeze or other chemicals that can be toxic. When back inside, give them a good wipe down to reduce the risk of poisoning
  • Avoid ice: When walking your dog, stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. You don’t know if the ice will support your dog’s weight. They’re also at risk for falling in icy spots, which can lead to injury

For more information on how to keep your pets safe in the winter, click here to head to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website.

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