We've hit a cold patch again. You know what I'm referring to; those two weeks of cooler temperatures we get in East Texas around this time of year. As we bundle up indoors, did you know it's illegal to leave your four-legged pal outside in dangerously low temps?

Like humans, dogs, cats, your potbellied pig, goats, (you get the idea) can get frostbite, so it's important to keep an eye on these family members outside too. In the state of Texas, it's illegal to leave an animal outside in extreme weather conditions - which includes the actual or effective outdoor temperature being below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Texas Legislature, an owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog's movement:
  • Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  •  Within 500 feet of the premises of a school
  •  In the case of extreme weather conditions, including conditions in which:
    • The actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit;
    • A heat advisory has been issued by a local or state authority or jurisdiction; or
    • A hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued for the jurisdiction by the National Weather Service.

Signs your dog has been outside too long include:

  • Limping
    • If your dog's paws are unprotected, and the ground is colder than the air, your canine will get cold much quicker. When your dog starts to limp, they are trying to tell you that their paws are too cold.
  • Whining
    • When dogs become uncomfortable due to the cold, they will attempt to let you know. They may do so with whining, whimpering, or barking.
  • Cold Ears
    • Even when dogs are cold, their body may feel warm to the touch due to fur. If you don't know how to tell if your dog is cold or are unsure if he is, feel their ears. If their ears feel cold, particularly around the edges, it is time to bring your dog inside.
  • Shivering
    • Dogs show a visible reaction to the cold. If your dog is shivering or trembling, they are likely too cold to be outside. Excessive shaking is another way your dog shows signs that they may be too cold.

It's also illegal to fail to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter for an animal, or to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner.

If you witness an animal that's been outside too long in dangerous conditions, it's encouraged that you contact the SPCA of East Texas. It's also important to keep the number to your nearest animal hospital handy.

Remember, if you're looking forward to getting out of the cold, chances are your four-legged friend is too.

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