It goes without saying that winter is a harsh time of year. This is especially true for lost and stray animals in our communities, who may not have a place to warm up when it gets cold. What should you do if you find an animal in distress?
- Contact the proper authorities. In the City of Edmonton, this would be Animal Care & Control, and they can be accessed by calling 311 or 780-442-5311. They will send someone out to take the animal in, to try and locate its guardian, or bring it to a veterinarian for care if it is sick or injured and needs medical attention
- Animal Control may not be available to respond immediately, in which case you should try to get the animal to a warm location as soon as possible. This could be a garage or a shed, or into your home if you can. In the event you can’t coax it indoors, providing it with a temporary shelter (such as a sturdy box lined with straw) may be your best bet.
- Offer food and water. Even if the animal does not want to come inside, a dish of food left in a safe location can be a lifesaver for an animal in need; it means they do not have to spend time and energy scrounging for food, and they can be better equipped to fight off illness or injury should they become ill. Wet food left outside will freeze, so use dry food. Check water dishes left out for freezing, as well.
- Bear in mind that an animal that is obviously injured may become violent and attack if it feels threatened. Leave food and water and shelter available to the animal and monitor the situation until someone can be dispatched to properly care for the injured animal
- If you see an animal left tethered outdoors or locked in a cold vehicle, and you suspect an abusive situation, contact the Edmonton Humane Society (780-471-1774) to report the situation and for advice on what to do next.
For neighbourhood animals (such as stray cats, or even local wildlife such as hares and jackrabbits) there are things you can do to keep your property free from hazards as well:
- DIY animal shelters are a wonderful option for keeping cats safe and warm through the winter months. It is vital that these shelters be maintained and cleaned regularly, so if you go this route please be mindful of the time necessary to maintain them.
- Cleaning up spilled antifreeze and securing other de-icing chemicals and sidewalk salts is vital as these are attractive to animals and can pose serious health risks if ingested.
- A good habit to form is to make a lot of noise when getting into your vehicle after it’s been parked overnight or for a long period of time, as well as checking behind the tires before you start to drive away. Stray animals and wildlife may easily hide underneath cars or even within the exposed sections of our cars’ underbody, and this poses risks of serious injury or death when the car is started. A couple of quick bangs on the hood of your car should be enough to scare away any animals seeking shelter inside or around your car.
It’s not always possible to help an animal in distress, and you shouldn’t put your safety at risk to accomplish this. If you don’t feel it is safe to intercept a stray animal, make the call and monitor things until help arrives. Together, we can make winter a better one for the animals in our community!