Cold pets could mean consequences - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Cold pets could mean consequences

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KENNEWICK AND PASCO, WA - It may have warmed up considerably in the last week, but today is actually the first official day of winter.

Temperatures during the winter months can dip down into the teens and even below zero, like we saw last week. With that being said, it's important to be aware of your pet's safety during these months.

"People have to be responsible for the conditions they leave their animals in," said Angela Ziler, Director of the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter. "If it's too cold outside for them, it's too cold outside for the animals."

Every case is circumstantial and treated differently. Animal control will send an officer to check out the situation. They look at the breed of the animal and the outdoor conditions they're in. If the officers see that your pet is in fact being neglected, you can be criminally charged.

"In our codes it's a gross misdemeanor," said Ziler. "I believe it's up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine."

One concerned neighbor contacted the NBC Right Now team and said she called animal control twice last week after she noticed that the two dogs next door were outside in the cold for a long period of time.

"He had snow caked up on his legs and on his belly and I just felt horrible," said Allysha Gamble, a concerned neighbor. "They were obviously here at least overnight if not the whole weekend."

While views on animal welfare vary from person to person, animal control officers tell us it's not an easy process to bring criminal charges, especially since the laws differ from city to city and county to county across the state.

"To me, dogs are pets," said Gamble. "They deserve to be loved and well-kept for."