The Outdoor Experience
Rules and considerations for the outdoors do not only apply for inside animals that occasionally go outside; but for any animal that spends time outside; if living there or not!
Especially when you have an animal living outside for periods of time or permanently, you need to consider the common conflicts it may occur when dealing with Mother Nature.
In order to keep this interesting and educational, this article is separated into smaller articles with the same title. I hope you take the time to read them and comment on them.
The weather can present a variety of issues to be taken in consideration. If you are taking your dog for daily walks or even longer hikes, you need to ask yourself what its needs may be during the walk. Depending on the breed some dogs may adjust much better to the local weather than others; especially if the dog was chosen for looks rather than character. Long-haired breeds can suffer immensely when being forced to live in hot climates such as the South of the United States. Breeds with naturally short hair can incur serious illnesses when they are forced to live in climates with very cold winters; such as the North of the United States. You may have to keep the walk 'short and sweet' to prevent your dog from overheating or becoming too cold. Bottles of water and a small bowl may help prevent overheating as much as a dog-sweeter may keep a short-haired dog warm.
Most States require by law that a certain amount of care is given to an animal. But these laws are often enough too basic and allow for carelessness and thus danger and death.
Recent tests conducted by a fellow animal rescuer showed that simply putting an dog house in the yard for a dog will not prevent it to suffer from the weather. On a hot day the measured temperatures within the dog house exceeded the already high outside temperature (similar to the effect the sun may have on a car) and the dog could have possibly died from the heat.
Placing the dog house near natural cover such as bushes or trees, near one's house or adding some form of shade (a extended roof, a plastic tarp or similar) can ensure that the dog has a cover that allows protection from the weather. Keeping water available at all times will also help to prevent dehydration.
In the winter time a solid dog house will make a great difference. Mud flaps from tractor trailers or simple boards leaned against the dog house will prevent the cold air from freely flowing into the dog house. The house should be large enough for the dog to rest comfortably (including the addition of hay/straw or shavings), but not so large that the dog's body temperature can't raise the temperature within it. Both hay/straw and/or shavings can be bought at local feed stores or may even be available for free by local organizations attempting to ensure outdoor animals' safety. Either should be kept well stocked during the winter. Cedar shavings are also suppose to be good for controlling fleas.
When confining the animal, comfort should be a consideration. No matter if exercised regularly or not, this is the animal's permanent home and should fill the needs as such. A 3 foot chain is a heartbreaking sight for any animal lover, if 20 foot or more chains and tigh-outs are available for decent prices at every hardware store. A 10ftx10ft kennel may be considered sufficient, but imagine how much more comfortable your dog would be living its life out in a kennel twice the size. Yes, its a little bit about spoiling this living creature; but even more important this is about quality of life. And remember that most animals like dogs or horses are natural pack/herd animals and will strive with company.
Natural disasters are rare compared to every-day hazards, but they can strike in much more severe force. We all remember the pictures of animals standing on the roofs of flooded houses or being rescued by boat. But what we don't see is what happens to a dog or cat left outside (especially if secured) during high winds or flood. Many animals have drowned in floods due to being confined and being unable to swim to safety. Others may not have been swept away by high winds, but have been injured and/or killed by debris. Many more faced starvation or dehydration after their owners were forced to leave.
While there is no perfect solution to prevent a natural disaster and its hazards, knowing one's area and its history of disasters may help to form a plan that can limit or even prevent the unnecessary loss of life. Motivation to do what is necessary before, during and after the disaster has a great impact on how it ends. And even if local authorities cannot permit one's return to the home and the animals, working with the agencies such as FEMA and the ASPCA can alert them to a possible danger to the animals and authorized personnel can attempt rescue.
Food for Thought
When looking at one's animals it seems that it is too easy to forget what discomforts they may face. A golden rule should be that if you don't want to endure it yourself, don't force your dog to do it. Long debates have been addressing the issue of 'artgerechte Haltung von Tieren' or keeping an animal 'appropriate for the species'. I try to spoil those in my care, but I try to not forget that they are animals; domesticated or not. Their needs are different than those of a human, but the respect and quality of care for them should have a similar standard than what we consider appropriate for ourselves.
A 'home', food, water, medical attention, care, love, should not be something dreamed of, but lived! If we can't make ourselves take over that responsibility to provide for that living creature in our care, excuse my hard words, maybe we should stick to stuffed animals or none at all.
More to follow on The Outdoor Experience in the next article(s).