Humane society issues warning on leaving pets outside in winter

By Justine Fraser

After a cat was found frozen to death in the snow in Cambridge on Tuesday, the woman who found the cat is warning people to be more cautious before they let their pets outside. Stacie Cormier-Bugden says the incident has affected her mental health, making it hard for her to sleep and giving her anxiety.

The cat was found in Cormier-Bugden’s yard by a friend that was visiting, when temperatures were sitting around minus two in the region.

“Every time I go to sleep, I just picture that poor cat, the way it was. I wake up off and on throughout the night. When I get up in the morning, I literally go around my house looking and I go around my neighbour’s house looking, to make sure there are no other cats,” said Cormier-Bugden.

She recognized the cat as her neighbour’s pet because she had taken it to get fixed for her neighbour in the past.

Cormier-Bugden originally called the Cambridge Humane Society for help after realizing it was one of her neighbour’s cats but not wanting to talk to the owner. Cormier-Bugden said their neighbour routinely lets their pets outside even in very cold temperatures.

“I don’t think they should be letting their animals out, especially cats, out in the cold, because if we can’t handle it these poor animals can’t handle it. Nobody is sticking up for the cats and the dogs, I got to do it I guess,” said Cormier-Bugden.

She was frustrated by the lack of help the Cambridge Humane Society offered when she called during the incident. She said the staff there told her to call Waterloo Regional Police instead, which she did, only to be redirected back to the Cambridge Humane Society. She mentioned it was only after she called the City of Cambridge that someone from Cambridge Humane Society showed up to her home to remove the body.

“They don’t care,” said Cormier-Bugden.  “I’ve contact them before about her animals because they are out all the time, in the cold, in the heat. They don’t do nothing, they tell me if the cats are a problem, I should catch them and once I have them secured to call them and they will get them, but it’s not my job to do that.”

This is the first time Cormier-Bugden has ever experienced finding a frozen animal on her property and hopes it will be the last.

Temperatures on Tuesday had a high of zero with a low of minus two. There was a wind chill in the morning of about minus nine. The night before, there was a low of minus 4.

The Humane Society of Kitchener-Waterloo and Stratford Perth (HSKWSP) said there is no exact temperature for when you should bring your pets inside during winter.

Melanie Hunt, a registered veterinary technician with HSKWSP said in an interview with CityNews that if it is too cold for you outside, it is probably too cold for your pet.

“Our cats, our short-furred dogs, puppies are all definitely more vulnerable to cold weather,” said Hunt.

“We want to keep our cats in doors anyways and protect our dogs from frostbite and hypothermia by taking them outside for only short walks especially as it gets colder and colder. If needed, you might want to consider a sweater or coat as an extra layer of protection for them.”

Some signs your pet should come inside include shaking, hunched over positions with a tucked tail, whining or barking, a change in behaviour, a reluctance to keep walking, seeking places to shelter and when you pet starts lifting their paws off the ground.

Hunt said it is also important to remember not to leave your pets outside overnight.

“Being left outdoors overnight no one is really watching them so they could easily freeze or become disoriented, they could get lost, injured or potentially even killed. It’s hard to see a dog or cat crossing the street at night so they could be hit by a car,” added Hunt.

Hunt added that with colder weather, predators like coyotes become more desperate which could turn pets into prey.

Pets shouldn’t be left inside of cars in winter either, said Hunt, as without the heat on they can turn into iceboxes and hurt your pet’s health.

Cormier-Bugden called the Cambridge Humane Society for help initially because she thought her neighbour should pay a fine for neglecting the animal. Instead, she was left disheartened from a lack of a response.

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