Locals upset by pets left in freezing weather, no citations issued

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Despite a harsh winter with continuous snow and even freezing rain, some family pets must brave the cold.

Hundreds of animals in Yakima and across the county are kept outdoors by their owners regardless of the weather.

Many concerned viewers have contacted Action News about it. Yakima animal control and code enforcement said it’s an issue that leaves their hands tied and no tails wagging.

A snowy-ice mix blankets Yakima neighborhoods. And in some yards, there are outdoor pets.

As owners retreat to the warmth of home, the same can't always be said for man's best friend.

It's the last straw for one woman who stopped by the KIMA station. We'll call her Lisa, and her concerns echo many.

“A 14-year-old boxer was left out in the cold in the freezing snow and that boxer died,” said Lisa.

It's a familiar complaint to code enforcement, sending animal control to investigate that case, and more than 60 others so far this season. Yet, no citations have been issued.

“[The boxer] had failing health and it passed on,” said Code Enforcement Director Joe Caruso. “It did not freeze to death, it was health-related.”

Still, it's a heated topic for some.

But legally a pet owner has the right to keep any animal outside as long as there's food, unfrozen water, and any kind of shelter.

“Does it seem cruel to have an animal outside in the weather like this? Yes, but it's not breaking the law,” said Caruso.

Professionals at Companion Animal Clinic (CAC) said if you're cold, your dog is cold - no matter the breed or size. There's also the risk of frostbite on ears and paws in freezing weather.

“I wouldn't leave a pet out below zero degrees,” said Peyton Eckman of CAC. “Zero is pushing it. That’s cold; very, very cold.”

Eckman said those are dangerous temperatures even for large dogs.

Action News stopped at a home that's had multiple complaints for a pair of dogs chained in rain or shine. However, the owner didn't speak English.

“If you're going to have a pet there is no excuse to leave that pet outside 24/7” said Lisa. “I see that a lot; I see it as I drive to work.”

But cold and lonely isn't a crime.

“I know it's very emotional for people to have pets outside in the winter, but we have to follow the law,” said Caruso.

A law Lisa hopes to change through more awareness and community action.

“They need to be protected, and since they can't speak for themselves, I decided I would speak for them,” said Lisa.

Code enforcement officers recommend using straw, blankets, or old carpeting for shelter bedding.

If you'd like to get in touch with House Representative Dan Newhouse about this issue click here.

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