Freezin' for a Reason in Freeland: Students use animal control officers to study impact of cold on pets left outside

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FREELAND,Michigan (WJRT) - (01/12/2018) - What impact does the cold weather have on pets left

That's what a group of mid Michigan fifth graders planned to stay up all night studying.

Three animal control officers volunteered to sleep outside Friday night to show what happens to animals left out in the cold.

We attended the unusual experiment, conducted at Apple Mountain in Freedland.

Fifth grader Connor Mason recorded Animal Control Officer Anthony Trevino's vitals.

It was all part of a research project he and his classmates from Hemetar Elementary conducted to learn more about the impact cold weather has on pets left outside.

"I'm hoping to learn that dogs should be kept inside a dog house," Mason said, "so we can show people that its not safe for dogs to be outside doghouses because they can get hypothermia."

Students examined three different scenarios.

"Wow I feel bad for dogs that have that, " said Trish Barnes, "that is heavy."

The Saginaw County Animal Control officer had a heavy chain around her neck. She wanted the students to see how animals left chained up outdoors suffer in the cold when left in a dog house with blankets.

The students planned to track the changes physical changes Barnes goes throughout the night.

"When we see animals that have died," said Barnes, "its because they're with blankets. or without a shelter whatsoever, and a huge chain around their neck"

Barnes said blankets freeze outdoors, and rob animals of their body heat. Straw is a safer way to keep animals warm.

Officer Anthony Trevino is braving the elements, like an animal left outside without any type of shelter.

"Unacceptable" he said, "a dog should either have a proper house with straw in it or be brought into somebody's house."

The best of the three scenarios was the doghouse packed with plenty of fresh straw, a heat source from a light bulb, and a heated water bowl just outside the door.

Animal Control officer Joaquin Guerrero explained why it's not safe to leave short hair dogs outside in this weather.

"You look at pit bulls, they don't have an undercoat," he said, "you look at how thin their fur is, so their body is warming up, if they don't have proper food and water they're to be running into problems."

Guerrero said a doghouse stacked with straw outside as a buffer, as well as inside, actually provides a better defense against the cold.

His canine partner, Little Chief, stopped by to make sure Guerrero was doing OK outside in the cold Friday night.

Bringing short haired dogs inside when the weather gets this cold is always the best option.

The students' research will be used by animal control to help educate the public about the dangers of leaving animals outside.

Michigan pet owners are required by law to provide their pets with shelter, water and food.

Lisa Stoffel, with Saginaw County Animal Control says they have already lost two dogs to the cold this year. She hopes the information from the student project will help prevent future incidents.

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