The Toledo Area Humane Society’s animal-cruelty hotline hardly stops ringing as frigid temperatures settle in over Lucas County.
“It’s just been a downhill spiral of calls,” said Megan Brown, one of the organization’s two cruelty investigators that cover the entire county. “We haven’t experienced this kind of weather in a while. Just in voicemails alone over the weekend, we got over 70 calls.”
She said the humane society on average deals with about 12 to 15 calls per day per officer.
The majority of reports the humane society receives are from people concerned about animals, most often dogs, outside in the cold. Although only about 10 percent of calls are determined to be verifiable concerns that lead officers to take action, Ms. Brown said the humane society wants people to call if they’re worried about an animal.
“We want to know so we can at least go out and educate the owners,” Ms. Brown said.
Weather forecasts suggest the humane society and other organizations that aid and shelter pets will — at least for now — remain inundated with reports from concerned citizens.
The National Weather Service office in Cleveland posted a wind-chill advisory for most of northern Ohio predicting wind chills well below zero in the coming days. The advisory, effective from 4 a.m. Thursday until noon Saturday, predicts chills of -5 to -15 during the daytime hours Thursday, then falling into the -10 to -25 range Thursday night through Friday night.
A similar advisory was in effect for southeast Michigan from 5 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday.
Forecasters expected Toledo air temperatures, following yet another arctic cold front, to tumble into the single digits above zero Thursday morning and not exceed 10 until Sunday. They predicted below-zero morning lows both Friday and Saturday mornings.
Animal cruelty officers must prioritize calls. It may take several days to check on low-priority reports as other calls continue to come in.
“It’s so hard. Just be patient with us,” Ms. Brown said. “We’re trying our hardest to get through them as quickly as possible.”
One officer was on vacation last week and was called back a day early Tuesday to help with calls. The Toledo Police Department and the Lucas County Canine Care & Control are also assisting in checking on animals.
“TPD and [the county shelter] have been fantastic at stepping in and helping,” Ms. Brown said.
The number of reports has also been influenced by a recent case of a dog found frozen solid. Ms. Brown found the female dog last Thursday on the porch of an unoccupied home in the 1000 block of King Street. Subsequently, some residents who had been on the fence about reporting animal concerns noted they were prompted to do so after the story, which was picked up by media across the country.
The female dog and an underweight male dog seized from inside the home are owned by Victor Vallejo, Sr., 40. He told The Blade last week he has been living elsewhere while checking on his dogs every few days. He said the dogs were inside with plenty of food and water last he checked, and did not know how the female got outside.
The case remains under investigation, Ms. Brown said, but she intends to file animal cruelty charges against Mr. Vallejo.
Experts urge pet owners to keep any time spent outdoors in such low temperatures to a minimum, and to find options for indoor exercise.
Ohio law requires that animals have access to unfrozen food and water and that whatever form of available shelter can guard against heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, and excessive direct sunlight. The shelter should be sized appropriately — too large and an animal’s body heat can’t warm it sufficiently — with a floor, four walls, a roof, and an opening that isn’t overly large.
Trouble signs include shivering, lethargy, pain, and unusually red, white, or black skin. Pets showing such symptoms should be brought inside to a heated area, dried off, warmed slowly, and seen by a veterinarian as needed.
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