December 11, 2003, VANCOUVER – Cold temperatures, biting winds and snow have slammed parts of Canada recently putting many pets in danger says The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). Every year many pets suffer and even die from the harsh weather common for Canadian winters. Fortunately, with a little compassion and foresight these tragedies can be averted.


Treating pets as cherished family members is one way to help ensure that they are kept happy and healthy.


“Dogs and cats are social animals,” says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. “They like the company of their human guardians, not being kept outdoors where they are exposed to many dangers including cold temperatures, snow, sleet and wind. Keeping our canine companions and feline friends as ‘indoor pets’ will be more enjoyable and safer for them.”

HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan admits that after working with animals for over 35 years, he doesn’t understand how some people can keep dogs chained outside with little or inadequate shelter and little socialization with humans.

“People who keep dogs as a form of protection or to alert them when people come onto their property should invest in an alarm system,” states O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan, whose family includes both dogs and cats, also wants people to get involved when they witness pets not receiving proper care or being put in potentially dangerous situations.

“Ensuring that pets are not being harmed or mistreated is everyone’s responsibility and it’s also the law,” says O’Sullivan. “In some situations where pets are not receiving adequate care it may be necessary to educate the animals’ guardians about the dangers they are exposing their animal companions to. In other situations it is necessary to contact the proper authorities. Pets without shelter or who have inadequate shelter are definitely in danger,” warns O’Sullivan. “Animals who are left outside are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Both of these conditions require immediate veterinary attention,” advises O’Sullivan.

Vehicle fans and fan belts injure and kill hundreds of cats every year across Canada because cats often climb up under the hood of a vehicle during the winter months when they are seeking warmth and shelter.

“Preventing this tragedy from happening is as simple as honking your vehicle’s horn or banging on the hood prior to starting the engine,” says Hickey. “Since this occurs more frequently than you’d imagine and most people are not aware of this risk to cats, it is important to educate others about this danger that injures and kills numerous cats.”

Three other common problems that pets are exposed to each winter are ice, salt and ethylene glycol. Dogs and cats can develop ice balls between their toes which cause discomfort. Salt also causes discomfort for pets, even cutting into the pads of their paws. These items can be easily removed from a pet’s paws by placing the paws in warm (never hot) water and then drying them off with a towel. Pets can be protected from ice, snow and salt by equipping them with boots made for this purpose.

Ethylene glycol is an extremely toxic substance that can poison pets and other animals. Ethylene glycol is present in such things as antifreeze and brake fluid. Anything containing ethylene glycol must be made inaccessible to animals. Animals suspected of ingesting ethylene glycol (vomiting, weakness, lack of coordination and diarrhea are a few signs) must be immediately taken to a veterinarian. Any Ethylene glycol which has been spilt must be thoroughly cleaned up and less toxic antifreezes should be used whenever possible.

“There are numerous hazards which threaten pets during the winter months,” states O’Sullivan. “By being aware of these dangers and educating others about them we can keep our animal companions safe.”

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

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