- Ada, Oklahoma

December 3, 2013

Don't forget — pets need attention, too, in wintry weather

Art Lawler Staff Writer

Ada — Shannon Nickell was busy getting the PAWS Animal Shelter in Ada ready for winter weather Tuesday morning.

Call it Operation Pooch Control. It’s bad enough that humans are having to take precautions, but watching out for animals adds to the pressure.

The National Weather Bureau in Norman is calling for below-freezing temperatures for much of the rest of the week and into next week.

The American Red Cross issued a release Tuesday further urging south-central Oklahoma residents to take safety measures. Icy precipitation is expected to hit Ada late this week and continue into the weekend.

“By preparing together for winter storms, we can make our families safer and our communities stronger,” regional CEO for Red Cross, Janienne Bellas, said. “We can help you and your family create a disaster preparedness plan now, before our community is threatened by dangerously low temperatures, snow, ice and strong winds.”

Here’s how you assemble an emergency preparedness kit the Red Cross way:

• Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing.

• Sand or non-clumping kitty litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery.

• Make sure you have a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage.

• Heed storm watches once you get the storm warning.

• A winter storm watch means winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours.

• People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions via NOAA Weather radio, or local radio or television stations.

• A winter storm warning means life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Individuals in a warning area should take precautions immediately.

For more information on winter storm preparedness, visit or or call 1-800 RED CROSS.

Back to the pooches.

Once you have ensured your own safety and that of your family, remember your animals aren’t reading newspapers and watching the weather on TV. They need to be sufficiently fed, watered, and sheltered, Nickells said.

As she walks in front of the temporary shelters at the PAWS shelter, the dogs ask for her attention.

It was as if they sensed something brewing, or maybe they were just hungry. The dogs want the entrance to their  respective “apartments” to be clean at all times and a nice tarp to hang in front of their living quarters to keep out the elements.

And one more thing.

PAWs has these 2.5-foot high igloos with a blanket inside for added protection. Call it layered sheltering.

“There’s no way the outside elements can get to (the dogs),” said Nickell, who as the director of PAWS for 14 years said she has never lost an animal to the weather.

There’s no heating, but dogs usually provide their own with a nice coat of fur.

“The main thing a dog owner needs to do is to make sure pets are out of the wind, rain, ice and snow,” Nickell said.

“Just think of yourself,” she said. “What would you want if you were out there for several days? Just use your common sense.”

Unfortunately, sometimes the people who have the most pets are the least financially able to take care of animals’ needs.

 PAWS will bring the small puppies inside the main building. The short-haired dogs will come in, also, as will any number of small animals that aren’t strong enough or too old, to survive cold temperatures.

 Pet owners can do a lot to ensure the health of their animals during the cold spell.

 A garage that doesn’t admit cold air will be fine for pets in cold weather.

 Nickell said pet owners must put out plenty of food and water. “You have to pay attention, too. If it’s 15 degrees outside, the water in the garage is going to freeze.”

 A blanket or comforter is a good way to let dogs scoot their snouts underneath and work their way under the protective covering.

 “It’s probably best not to put a heater out in the garage with them,” Nickell said. “It’s too risky as a fire hazard.”

 Wondering about cats?

 While the dogs showed little interest in cat protection,  Nickell and the shelter workers do.

 “We provide boxes with holes cut in the top, then we put comforters inside. The cats all tend to squnch up together for extra warmth by becoming one large fur ball.”

 They, too, have to be fed, watered and cleaned up after.

“Cleanliness is so important,” Nickell said.