This month, two brave volunteers decided to help with a social experiment to show just how cold it is for dogs who are forced to sleep outside in “perfectly legal” dog houses. The New Hampshire SPCA “In the Dog House” event was held on February 12 – Pelham Animal Control Officer Allison Caprigno, and part-time shelter staff member, Ian Matheson, volunteered to be the stand-in “dogs” who would endure a night inside of the wooden houses.
It was Matheson who came up with the idea – after hearing about numerous dogs who had perished in various parts of the nation after being forced to stay outside during frigid weather, he wanted to help raise awareness that a dog house sometimes isn’t good enough to protect pets from the cold. In a press release, before the event, the shelter stated:
“The New Hampshire SPCA takes frequent calls about animals, especially dogs, left out in the elements during frigid temperatures. We hope that by having these two brave individuals stay in a doghouse on a cold February night we will make the public aware of the importance of bringing pets inside during extreme cold.”
Unlike the dogs who are forced to live outdoors, the volunteers had an EMT on hand to monitor their vitals. They were also dressed for the cold weather – from stocking caps and coats, to warm socks and boots. And guess what? Even bundled up in their winter garb, the volunteers were unable to last even six hours in the cold.
“Our volunteers lasted 5.5 hours in the doghouse until their feet began to go numb and it became too uncomfortable. Luckily they had the choice to move inside where they could warm up. A lot of dogs aren’t given the same choice and are left to suffer in the cold. We hope this experiment helps folks realize if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog!”
While a dog house may be legal, it is important to realize that sometimes it’s just not enough – not enough for comfort, and perhaps, not even enough to protect a dog from dying. Dogs with thin coats, or who are underweight or old, are at the greatest risk for suffering in the cold. Sheila Ryan, with the New Hampshire SPCA, stated, “Dog houses can be fine under the right circumstances, but when it’s cold, it’s more appropriate to bring the dog inside the house.”
(Image via New Hampshire SPCA)