Protecting Portage’s pets

Anna Riggenbach

With temperatures dropping below freezing, humans aren’t the only ones making adjustments this winter. Pets need to be taken care of differently in the winter months, and the Portage Animal Protective League gets a spike in calls in the beginning of the winter.

Sheila Vandergriff, executive director of the league, said there are two peak seasons for calls, summer and winter.

“Winter is more of a peak season for dogs,” she said. “Some are chained out with a block of ice or lost or injured.”

Portage Animal Protective League helps animals who have been abandoned, abused or neglected. The league will get a call and a humane officer from the league will investigate the situation.

“PAPL is here to help animals in need,” Vandergriff said. “Every animal situation is different.”

Jennifer Sanderson, the humane officer for the Portage Animal Protective League, said no two days are alike with her job.

First thing in the morning, she checks her messages and puts the calls in order of importance. If an animal is in danger of losing its life, it is a high priority. Another high priority is veterinarian calls, where the animal needs to be taken to a vet. These calls can take up to two hours.

Because Sanderson is covering all of Portage County, she usually responds to five to six calls a day. And these calls don’t just include cats and dogs. One of the most unusual calls the league received was on an alligator.

“I do it all,” Sanderson said. She has gone out on calls for livestock, frogs and even fish.

But for household pets, neglect can become more common in the winter. This could be as simple as the animals not having proper shelter, she said.

“Winters can be rough around here,” Sanderson said. “Pets need water and shelter for winter.”

Sanderson suggests using straw instead of blankets for bedding for animals. If a blanket is used for a wet pet, the animal will either sit on the wet blanket, or the blanket will freeze, sometimes sticking to the animal.

Commonly, when Sanderson gets a call, she ends up educating the owner on a better way to provide what the pet needs.

“A common phrase from pet owners is, ‘gee, I never thought of it that way,'” Sanderson said. “People just don’t think about it.”

Contact public affairs reporter Anna Riggenbach at [email protected].

Keeping Pets Safe

-Check food and water. Make sure water is not frozen.

-Make sure pets have outdoor shelter and use straw instead of blankets for bedding.

-Bring pets in after dark when temperatures will drop.

-Keep pets on a leash when walking them because they can get easily disoriented in the snow.

-Salt and other snow-melting chemicals can irritate your pet’s feet and fur. Properly wipe your pet’s feet and check its fur after a walk.

-If you have a smaller pet, put a jacket on it when taking it outside.

-Do not leave pets in a car. The car becomes like a freezer which can harm the animal.

Source: Portage Animal Protective League