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Prepare animals for winter weather

By Katie Demeria

Many organizations throughout Virginia are encouraging residents to prepare for the upcoming winter storm -- and some are urging them not to forget about their pets.

Lt. Lonnie Sherfey of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office said he has had three reports of animals being left outside this year, though upon further investigation most had access to proper care.

"We saw owners going out and dumping the ice out of their animals' water bowls, and then refilling with water," Sherfey said. "So most calls we've gotten have turned out OK."

Sherfey and his officers do regular welfare checks on local animals to ensure they are still getting the proper care, and usually, he said, they are.

He was called out to inspect cows that were outside without an obvious water source, and it turned out the farmer had been breaking the stream nearby and clearing it of ice so the animals could drink.

This, he continued, is what he would encourage anyone with outdoor animals to do.

"Make sure they have food and water, and check that water periodically," he said. "When it gets really cold it will become ice pretty quickly."

He also encouraged people to provide blankets or some sort of insulation, especially for dogs, so the animals can avoid have to sit on the bare ground.

Marcy Gallo, kennel director for the Humane Society of Warren County, echoed Sherfey's advice.

Gallo urged anyone with an outdoor pet to allow it access to a garage, shed or basement if serious weather is expected -- including a great deal of snow.

"If they have to keep them outside, they need to have a doghouse, and it should be filled with hay and other materials, and a heated water bowl so the water's not freezing," she added.

Cats, she said, may not need the same kind of care as dogs, as they are usually more resilient.

Gallo does not recommend anyone to allow their cats to wander outside on their own, but she did suggest that those who already have a high amount of feral cats in their area to act accordingly.

"Honk your horn or bang on the hood before you drive, because if it's very cold cats will sometimes crawl into engines," she said. "But community or feral cats usually have places where they stay warm."

Some caretakers will even build shelters for feral cats that are insulated against extreme colds.

"If people love their pets, usually they'll step up and do what they need to do," Gallo said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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