February 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

Animal advocates spend night in cold to raise awareness on danger for pets outdoors

Humane Society sleeps outdoors to raise awarness
Humane Society sleeps outdoors to raise awarness: Humane Society sleeps outdoors to raise awarness

DetroitBella, a 5-year-old pit bull, scratched on the back door of her Detroit home to be let inside on a bitterly cold night this winter.

She scratched in vain. Michigan Humane Society investigators found her on an unenclosed porch the next day, frozen.

Her owner had been tired, said Elise Ramsey, the MHS cruelty investigator who responded to a call of a “sick, possibly dead” animal on a back porch.

“He had worked a really long shift and just didn’t want to let her in,” Ramsey said. “Ultimately, as a result of his laziness, she suffered.”

It’s the fate of Bella and other animals like her that spurred Ramsey and three other MHS investigators to pitch plywood doghouses outside their Detroit headquarters Tuesday night to raise awareness of the plight of pets left in the cold. The humane society has been handling about 30 calls or more a day this winter about animals without adequate shelter, up from up to 10 calls a day, staff said.

“It’s been a really rough winter for dogs,” said Debby MacDonald, chief cruelty investigator. “We’ve seen dogs frozen to death, dogs with hypothermia and we don’t know if they’re going to make it. We’re doing this to raise awareness.”

The doghouses were labeled in memory of dogs who had died in the cold this winter: Bella, Brandy, Brownie. Another doghouse, the one MacDonald slept in, was labeled “In Memory of All the Unnamed” after a dog that no one cared for in life or claimed in death.

“Animals have lost their lives this winter that really didn’t need to,” said Ryan McTigue, spokesman for the Michigan Humane Society. “It’s sad because it’s one of those things where one is too many.”

The temperature Tuesday night was near 30 with winds up to 15 mph, a warmup from Monday’s 20 degrees.

That’s nothing compared to what strays and pets kept outside have had to handle this winter, McTigue said.

MHS prefers that pet owners keep their animals inside, but for those who can’t, they say owners must provide adequate shelter. The humane society offers straw as bedding for doghouses.

Anyone who sees an animal in danger is asked to call the MHS Cruelty Hotline at (313) 872-3401 or local animal control or police department.

(313) 222-2541

The doghouses were labeled in memory of dogs who had died from the cold: Bella, Brandy, Brownie. Another, MacDonald's, was labeled 'In Memory of All the Unnamed' after a dog that no one had claimed. / Tony Briscoe