Winter weather is hitting New Mexico with snow, ice and dangerously cold temperatures this week.

At least three people have been killed in weather-related accidents and many more are suffering in the bitter cold. Animal Protection New Mexico urges residents not to forget the animals they share their lives with and to ensure their animals are warm and safe in colder weather.

“Many people believe that dogs, cats and other domesticated animals won’t get cold because of their fur or hair — that’s a common misconception,” said Alan Edmonds, Challenging Animal Cruelty program director at Animal Protection New Mexico. “Many, if not most, of the animals that we share our homes, yards and barns with are not well-equipped for cold temperatures. They are as susceptible to frost bite and hypothermia as humans are.”

Cold-weather animal care tips from APNM:

  • Bring the animals indoors, either into your home or into a heated or well-insulated building like a barn or shed.
  • Straw makes good insulation for any shelter, barn or shed.
  • Blankets or fabric are not good for keeping animals warm outside — once damp fabric freezes over.
  • Break the ice on water bowls frequently.
  • If you can’t bring the animal inside, create an outdoor cold weather shelter.
  • The shelter should be tall enough for the animals to sit upright and turn around — if it’s much bigger, they won’t retain their body heat.
  • Make sure the shelter is slightly off the ground, so it doesn’t get waterlogged.
  • Face the shelter’s entrance south or southeast to guard against the elements and maximize sun exposure.
  • Cover the opening with a thick piece of rubber or heavy fabric like a doormat or carpet scrap.

APNM urges New Mexicans to keep an eye on animals kept outside and take steps to get them care if they show signs of cold weather-related illness or hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include: shivering followed by stillness, slowed heartbeat, lack of coordination and pale or blue gums.

If you see an animal left outside in bad weather, contact APNM’s Animal Cruelty Helpline, (505) 265-2322, ext. 29, or (877) 5-HUMANE or email [email protected].

Edmonds reminds all New Mexicans: “If you are feeling the cold, so are the animals. Bring them inside or ensure they have a place where they can stay warm and safe.”