Owners who leave pets outside could face felony animal cruelty charge

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Louisiana SPCA says their phones are ringing off the hook with people reporting pets left out in the cold.

Officers have even had to seize some animals from their owners and charge them with animal cruelty.

Michelle Ingram, the owner of Zeus' Rescues, is making sure the animals in her care are staying warm.

"We have tons of blankets down because even though were inside and the heat is set to 75 in here the floors are stone and they're still cold just like in your house, a tile floor is cold," said Ingram.

Ingram has even taken in dozens of puppies to protect them from the freezing weather.

"We took in 24 last week with their mama dogs from the Humane Society of Louisiana because they were running out of indoor room and they worry about these puppies being out in the cold, freezing, so, we took in 24 last week, we still have about 11 of them left," said Ingram.

Whether it's a warm blanket to sleep on or even a sweater to wear, protecting your pets is critically important when temperatures dip this low. The Louisiana SPCA says it's illegal to leave them outside when the National Weather Service issues a freeze advisory.

"That is kind of the point where our officers start treating all of these calls as emergency calls, pets cannot be left outside when weather gets to this temperature so, it's not just overnight, it's not just in the evenings when you're home from work, it's all day, as long as the weather advisory is in effect, all pets have got to be brought inside," said Alicia Haefele with the Louisiana SPCA.

If you don't do that, officers can seize all of your pets, and charge you with the felony offense of animal cruelty. The Louisiana SPCA says their officers are working 24-7 to respond to all of the calls they are getting right now about pets being left outside in the cold. They even had to seize a handful of animals.

"Animals that have been left outside, they had no shelter, they were chained up, they didn't have access to food, they had water, the water was frozen," said Haefele.

Both the Louisiana SPCA and Zeus' Rescues say a good rule of thumb to remember is if it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pets.

"Another good tip is a lot of these feral cats in all of our neighborhoods are going to go into your cars tonight when you get home because the car engine is warm, so, when you go to start up your car tomorrow morning, if you can just blow your horn or hit on top of your hood to let those feral cats get out of the engine block before you start it up and start to drive away," said Ingram.

If you are charged with animal cruelty, you won't be able to get your pet back until your trial date.

If you spot a pet left outside in the freezing weather, the Louisiana SPCA says don't assume someone else has reported it. They urge you to call them. Even if they're closed, leave a detailed message with information like the pet's address and where it's located on the property. The information you report is kept confidential.

Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.