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Winter weather warnings


A puppy left out in the cold prompts a local rescue to raise awareness about cold climate cautions

Sophie after she was rescued by FUR. (Photo courtesy of Florida Urgent Rescue)

Sophie after she was rescued by FUR. (Photo courtesy of Florida Urgent Rescue)

Florida Urgent Rescue (FUR) was notified about a 5-month-old puppy, Sophie, left outside in sub-freezing temperatures. A neighbor called in to the rescue after witnessing the puppy getting kicked down the stairs and left outside in the cold by a nearby house. FUR quickly went to help Sophie and she was promptly transported to a local veterinary clinic for a thorough examination. Sophie was infested with fleas, diagnosed with a hernia, likely resulting from being kicked, and is suffering from the effects of exposure to the cold. Despite the hardships she has faced, Sophie is now in a secure environment, currently recuperating in the comfort of a foster home.1

FUR is using Sophie’s heartbreaking story to caution the public about the progressively cold temperatures seen this winter. FUR also recognizes that in the south, neither people nor animals are used to these bitter weather conditions. However, high wind speeds and cold temperatures can cause increased risks for animals going outdoors.1 Similar to humans, the cold tolerance of pets can differ among each species and factors such as their coat, body fat reserves, level of physical activity, and overall health can influence their tolerance.2

"The problems are the same, whether it's a winter storm, a hurricane or another disaster," said Mike Merrill, founder and executive director of FUR, said in a news release. "Animals are in danger and they need our help."1

FUR volunteer Jessica with rescue dog, Issac. before he went to SAFE Pet Rescue in St. Augustine. (Photo courtesy of Florida Urgent Rescue)

FUR volunteer Jessica with rescue dog, Issac. before he went to SAFE Pet Rescue in St. Augustine. (Photo courtesy of Florida Urgent Rescue)

FUR has been collaborating with rescue organizations across the state to assist in relocating dogs from outdoor kennels at a rural Union County Shelter. The Mercy Full Project in Tampa took in 4 dogs, SAFE Pet Rescue in St. Augustine took in 2, and London Sanctuary in Macclenny provided shelter for 1 dog. Friends of Union County Animals also partnered with FUR to facilitate coordination with other rescue groups.1

Pet Paradise, a chain of boarding resorts, has helped FUR by offering emergency housing for animals during various hurricanes and Kentucky tornados. As Winter Storm Heather approached, Pet Paradise supported FUR with temporary accommodations for the remaining dogs without a place to stay. Palm Valley Veterinary Center was able to take in 1 dog with injured paws.1

In addition to helping animals in need like Sophie, FUR was able to take in several other dogs during the winter storm, including another stray dog who was found freezing on the streets, a senior dog with medical problems, and 2 dogs in a rural shelter dealing with extreme levels of anxiety.

Overall, pet owners should remain aware of their pet’s cold temperature tolerance and limit time outside in extreme weather conditions. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises owners to shorten walks outside in freezing temperatures and be cautious with senior pets walking outside with snow and ice to prevent injuries from slips and falls.2 The association also recommends checking paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked or bleeding paw pads. It is also important to wipe paws after walking outside to remove any toxic anti-freeze or chemical salts spread across pavement and sidewalks.2


  1. Whether it's winter storms or hurricanes, animal rescuers race to save dogs in danger. News release. Florida Urgent Rescue. January 24, 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/whether-its-winter-storms-or-hurricanes-animal-rescuers-race-to-save-dogs-in-danger-302043441.html
  2. Cold weather animal safety. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed February 12, 2024. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/cold-weather-animal-safety
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