It may not seem like much – a bale of straw – but for dogs kept outdoors during a bitterly cold Michigan night — and one is coming tonight —  it can be the difference between life and death.

Until the weather warms back up again, the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) will distribute free straw for pets at the MHS Detroit Center for Animal Care,  7401 Chrysler Drive, Detroit. Straw can be picked up any time during adoption center hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“It tears at your heart to see dogs kept chained outside, with no place to go and nothing but a frozen sheet to lay on,” said Debby MacDonald, MHS Chief Cruelty Investigator and Facility Director at the Detroit Center for Animal Care. “With fresh, clean straw, the dogs can burrow in and stay warm during a cold winter night. Towels and blankets just absorb moisture and freeze when the temperature drops.”

While the Michigan Humane Society strongly urges residents to keep their pets indoors year-round, many are still subjected to the harsh winter weather without proper provisions.

Michigan law requires proper shelter for dogs who must remain outdoors for any length of time. Adequate shelter for dogs, as defined by state law, means a well-built, insulated, slant-roofed dog house. The interior should be just large enough for the dog to stand and to lie down comfortably.  It should be slightly elevated from the ground for air circulation. The door should face away from winds and have a protective flap to eliminate drafts.

Lack of proper care or shelter can result in misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, carrying a sentence of up to 93 days in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, community service and loss of pet ownership.

To report pets left outside without proper shelter in the MHS service area of Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park, call the MHS Cruelty Hotline at 313-872-3401. In other areas, please contact the local animal control or police department.

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