As brutally cold temperatures persist in the metro Detroit area, the Michigan Humane Society’s Cruelty Investigators are responding to an extremely high number of cold weather-related animal cruelty calls – many with tragic results.

While the Humane Society always urges that pets live indoors year-round, investigators say that during severe weather that decision should be mandatory.

“The Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Investigation team picked up four dead dogs this weekend – they were someone’s pets, yet they suffered outside and slowly died due to frozen water bowls, too little food, and inadequate shelter to withstand the elements,” said MHS Chief Cruelty Investigator Debby MacDonald.

“These dogs were chained up and basically forgotten while their owners lived and slept comfortably inside. Several potential felony cases on behalf of these animal victims are being investigated as a result.”

MacDonald says that while concerned citizens alert MHS each winter to hundreds of pets suffering in the cold without ample provisions, sometimes the call comes too late. 

“There is a misconception that because dogs have coats, they can be kept outside year-round, without a thought given to weather conditions,” said  MacDonald. “We want to make it clear that this is not acceptable and pet owners will be held accountable for making sure their pets are protected. If not, a pet may pay the price with his life.”

If harm comes to your pet because it is left outside, you could face felony cruelty charges.

Failing to provide adequate care for an animal can result in a sentence of up to 93 days in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, community service, and loss of pet ownership. In more extreme cases, felony charges are often sought by prosecutors, which can carry a penalty of up to four years in jail.

“Beyond the legal ramifications, this boils down to doing what is right,” said MacDonald. “Acting in the best interest of our pets is a responsibility we take on as their owners.” 

When your dog is outside, dry straw should be provided for bedding rather than rugs or towels, since linens can absorb moisture and freeze. The MHS Detroit Center for Animal Care, located at 7401 Chrysler Drive, provides free straw available for pickup by pet owners Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

To report pets left outside without proper provisions in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park, call the Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Hotline at (313) 872-3401. A confidential message can be left 24 hours a day. In other cities, animal cruelty should be reported to the local animal control or police.


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