Earlier this week, we showed pet owners some tips on how to keep your animals warm and comfortable on the coldest days of the year, but in these last few days, even those non-pet owners are looking out for their well-being.
For animal experts in the area, the general consensus is for dog owners to understand their pets' breed and know what conditions in which they are best suited, but in most situations, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Gunner is a boxer who lives in Clarksburg with his owner, Jason Jaggie. But as temperatures began to plummet earlier this week, Jaggie says Gunner gave him a scare when he escaped from their yard and went missing for more than 24 hours.
"We headed back up into the woods where he was spotted, and luckily enough, after a couple hours, we were able to track him down," said Jaggie.
For Gunner, his adventure was by choice, but for hundreds of other local dogs and cats, being inside or outside is at the discretion of their owner.
"Any dog with a heavy coat, they're probably going to be okay outside. Now if you have a small toy-type of dog – a dachshund, a whippet, a greyhound, a Doberman ….the tips of their ears, the tips of their tails could go, their feet could have problems," said Lieutenant Greg Scolapio of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.
Scolapio is a humane officer. He said he and his deputies have been called out to check on dozens of animals these past few days. Some of those calls are more validated than others.
"People are going around, they're looking for the animals, they need to be conscientious of the total surroundings around the animal. If the dog is of good body weight, if the dog does, in fact, have shelter. Some folks who are taking a look, they might not see food or water readily available for the dog. That doesn't necessarily make it illegal," said Scolapio.
Scolapio says vigilance is key.
"We look at the totality of the circumstances and make a determination on everything that we see. If everything is okay, basically it's an unfounded call, no further action is required," said Scolapio.
But those that aren't looking out for their pets could face charges.
"We may end up having to seize a dog or criminal charges could be pending," said Scolapio.
Gunner's veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Canfield at the All Pets Animal Center in Nutter Fort, said Gunner is one of the lucky ones.
"Gunner was in great shape. He had been out for more than 24 hours, but he was out last night when it was very cold. So his pads were kind of torn off, just from being on rough ground. He had been hit by a car, so he had some wounds there, but overall, he was fabulous," said Dr. Canfield.
Click here for more on West Virginia's code regarding animal cruelty laws.
Signs of hypothermia in pets include severe shivering, listnessness and/or lethargy, frostbite on food pads, tail, or tips of ears.
Tips on how to keep your pet safe include keeping your pets away from antifreeze, not shaving your pets in the winter, and making sure your pet is completely dry before or after they are outside.