TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Topeka Police Department is reminding people to keep their pets safe and warm during the frigid weather. TPD said Animal Control fields an increase in welfare checks for dogs left outside once the temperatures dip.

Senior Animal Control Officer Jim Tursi said one of the first things officers will check for is that the dog has proper shelter. This is required year-round, but dogs need specific bedding when the temperature dips below 40 degrees.

“It has to be straw, it has to be hay or it has to be wood chips,” Tursi said. “The reason why is if those get wet the water will sink down below it and the dog will be up above on the hay. If it is a blanket or a pillow, that just gets wet, it freezes and now the dog has no protection against that cold.”

Tursi said that dogs need access to freshwater. He suggests a heated water bowl to ensure that the water doesn’t freeze.

If the dog is on a tether, the dog needs to have access to shelter, water, and be in a place where the tether can’t get tangled. Tursi said the dog should be checked on every 15 minutes.

“If you are out there with the dog and you want to go back inside, the dog itself probably wants to go back inside too,” Tursi said. “I would also suggest that puppies, very old dogs, sick dogs, or dogs that are very thin should not be outside for extended periods of time.”

Just like in the summer, dogs should not be left unsupervised in a vehicle. Tursi said a dog should only be left alone for five minutes. Then someone needs to be there to turn on the heater and let the dog warm up.

Animal Control also receives a lot of calls about stray cats in the cold. Tursi said people can help by creating cat boxes. Cut a hole in a plastic tote and put straw on the bottom. Cats will crawl inside for warmth.