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Tulsa nonprofit works to protect outdoor pets from winter weather

Posted at 10:09 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 09:58:36-05

TULSA, Okla. — As Oklahomans try to stay warm amid freezing temperatures, a Tulsa nonprofit is making sure our furry friends aren't left behind in the cold.

It’s 20 degrees outside and Tina Carruthers, a volunteer with Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, is driving all over Tulsa, doing her best to keep outdoor dogs warm. She brings them straw, a dog house and even treats.

Executive Director Erin Shackelford said this weather is especially dangerous for short-haired dogs, like pit bulls, boxers and Labradors.

“I think there is a misconception that the dogs are supposed to be outside," Shackelford said. "They can handle it. They have fur. It’s just not the case.”

Shackelford said they went through 20 bales of straw in three days. They received 20 more bales on Tuesday and that’s almost gone. They’ve also received 300-400 calls from across the state from people reporting animals outside. Now, they're trying to help them before it's too late.

“We are very concerned over the coming days, especially with the prediction of snow, that not even an insulated dog house is going to save some of these dogs," Shackelford said.

The organization also helps other outside animals like feral cats, pigs and goats.

If a dog is left outside, they say to have a dog house with no cracks facing away from the wind and put something comfortable and warm inside like straw. They advise don’t use hay or a blanket. Also, make sure their water is not frozen. But it's best to bring them inside.

“You’ve taken responsibility for this animal, their life means something," Shackelford said. "Even if you can only bring them in the garage or the mudroom. Even if it’s just overnight when it gets the coldest.”

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals can’t legally remove the animals from property. Shackelford said there are currently no city or state ordinances saying people must bring their pets in when it gets under a certain temperature.

Oklahoma State Representative Mickey Dollens is trying to change that with a new bill that would require dogs be brought inside during extreme or severe weather.

As they get overwhelmed with calls for animals, Shackelford said she and her team will do everything they can to keep these pets warm.

“We’re seeing some that we’ve never seen come inside, come inside, which is reassuring," Shackelford said. "So, I think some people do understand how serious this weather is and we're seeing that in some people, unfortunately, we're not seeing it with everyone.”

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is in need of donations. It’s asking for new or used dog houses with no cracks, straw or money for supplies. You can text 918-917-9687 to set up a time to drop off a donation. You can also donate online here or through PayPal here.

If you are concerned about a dog’s immediate health and safety, Shackelford recommends calling your local animal welfare service or sheriff’s office.

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