Animal care vital during cold snaps

Anthony Abbondanza
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Unless necessary, dogs and cats should remain indoor says pet care advocacy group

The arctic fox is most active when cold weather permits and only begins to shiver when the temperatures hover around -70C

While it may not be as cold as last week, where parts of Quebec registered a low of minus 51, provoking several Environment Canada and Hydro-Quebec weather warnings, one pet care agency is issuing a warning of its own.

The Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec (CAACQ) is warning pet owners to refrain from sending their furry, family friends outside unless for their usual and necessary daily affairs.

“With this cold snap, other than Nordic breeds like huskies, [pets] shouldn’t be outside,” said Johanne Tassé, founder of the CAACQ.

If you must walk the dog – especially for those that become restless without their daily excursion, Tassé suggested several precautionary measures such as the wearing of a coat and boots and to avoid salty streets.

“You got to watch them. The cold goes through their bodies and they can’t move,” said Tassé, who has three dogs – all adopted – of her own.

“… A well-exercised dog is a good dog. They get ‘ancy’ at one point in the day.”

Meanwhile, the issue with cats is a little different. According to Tassé, Quebec is over-populated with “community cats,” as she likes to call them, who roam the streets throughout the day and may not necessarily have shelter for the night.

Due to a lack of sterilization, cats reproduce a litter that owners refuse to take in – and instead, leave out to fend for themselves dire weather conditions or not.

“We feel cats should not be set aside. You wouldn’t leave a child outside without surveillance. Why leave a cat without surveillance?” said Tassé.

Founded in 2008, the CAACQ seeks to resolve the problem of animal over-population and to implement cost-effective solutions for the well-being of animals. There are currently four dog and cat adoption agencies affiliated with the organization: Animatch, Rosie’s Animal Adoption, La Pension du Jardins Secret, and SPCA Laurentides Labelle.

"With this cold snap, other than Nordic breeds like huskies, [pets] shouldn’t be outside" Johanne Tassé, Founder of CAACQ

Party time at the zoo

Most of the focus surrounds the furry animals in our homes, but what about those without shelter from the icy, cold temperatures bracing Central and Eastern Canada?

Animals indigenous to Quebec are well-adapted to the recent cold snap, and more generally to Quebec winters, according to Ecomuseum Zoo officials.

So much so that for northern mammals like the arctic fox, “winter time is party time” said Jennifer Cyr-Devine, zoologist at the Ecomuseum Zoo. The arctic fox is most active when cold weather permits and only begins to shiver when the temperatures hover around the minus 70 degrees Celsius mark.

The other mammals at the Ste. Anne de Bellevue zoo, which house animals indigenous to the St. Lawrence Valley, also see their fur thicken during the winter season and seek refuge in man-made shelters for longer stretches.

“It’s pretty darn cold these days. We do provide them the places where they can go and hide, places that are warmer,” said Cyr-Devine.

Those without fur haven’t been as lucky, however. The zoo’s fresh water turtles have been relocated to the indoor facility due to a shallow pond.

“In the wild, turtles will hibernate under water. We have an artificial pond here. It’s not deep enough” for them to hibernate said Cyr-Devine.

Zookeepers have also been forced to break the ice at another pond – home to the zoo’s ducks, which under normal circumstance migrate south unless their search for food resources is mitigated.

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Organizations: Environment Canada, Hydro-Quebec, Nordic Ecomuseum Zoo Ste

Geographic location: Quebec, Lawrence Valley

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