Detroit Animal Control strongly urges that all pet owners allow their animals to be inside, especially during extreme weather


As frigid temperatures sweep the City, Detroit Animal Control (DAC) reminds pet owners that temperatures below freezing and wind chill can be dangerous, even deadly, for domesticated pets. This is why DAC is urging pet owners to bring in their pets; however, if people leave their pets outdoors for any length of time, they are required by Michigan state law to provide them with adequate food, water, and shelter.

Adequate shelter for dogs, means a well-built, insulated, slant-roofed dog house. The inside should be large enough for the dog to stand and lie down comfortably. It should be slightly elevated from the ground for air circulation, and the door should face away from prevailing winds and have a protective flap to eliminate drafts.

Clean, dry straw should be used for bedding instead of towels, rugs or blankets. These items absorb moisture and will freeze in frigid temperatures. Unheated garages or sheds, a doghouse that is too large or lacks straw, or dogs tied out to a porch, fence or deck with no shelter are not considered adequate. To report pets left outside without proper shelter in Detroit, residents can call the Detroit Animal Control Hotline at 313-922-DOGS (3647). 

Failing to provide proper provisions for pets can result in misdemeanor animal cruelty violations, carrying a sentence of up to 93 days in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, community service, and loss of pet ownership for a specified amount of time.

  • When temperatures drop, pets should not be left outside for an extended time. Small or short-haired pets should be brought in when temperatures reach 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Larger breeds or thick-coated dogs may remain outside, with adequate shelter, to a temperature of zero.
  • Precipitation and wind chill should also be taken into account.
  • Cats should be kept indoors or at least brought into a warm, animal-proofed garage or shed during severe weather.
  • Roaming cats often seek the warmth of car engines, so knock on the car hood or honk the horn before starting your car to startle them and give them a chance to escape.
  • Increase the amount of food by 10-20 percent for dogs left outside during winter. The extra calories are needed to help an animal to stay warm.
  • Regular access to clean, unfrozen water is also critical. Check drinking water frequently – every few hours – to ensure it is unfrozen.
  • If an animal is cold to the touch or his paws and ears pale, they may suffer from frostbite. Move the animal to a warmer area and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Frostbite begins when the dog’s body gets cold. The body automatically pulls blood from the extremities to the body's center to stay warm. The dog’s ears, paws or tail can get so cold that ice crystals can form and damage the tissue. The tricky thing to remember about frostbite is that it’s not immediately apparent. Watch for signs of pale or grey skin; the skin may also turn hard and cold. As frostbitten areas warm, they can be extremely painful. Severely frostbitten skin will eventually turn black and slough off.

Hypothermia is the second serious winter weather concern, which occurs when a dog spends too much time in the cold, gets wet in cold temperatures or when dogs with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, the dog will shiver, and her ears and feet may grow cold. As hypothermia progresses, she may show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition worsens, her muscles will stiffen, her heart and breathing rates slow down, and she will not respond to stimuli. Severe hypothermia is life-threatening.

Protecting your dog from frostbite and hypothermia is essential, so learn how to recognize the signs that your dog needs to come indoors to warm up.

Is your dog cold? If it’s too cold for you to stand at the door without your coat, it’s probably too cold for your dog, so pay attention to her behavior while outdoors. If you notice your dog whining, shivering, or appearing anxious, or they stop playing and seem to be looking for places to burrow, it’s time to bring her in.