Fairfax Animal Shelter opens doors to pets looking for warmth

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) - As Washingtonians brace for a bitter blast of arctic air, there's a big push to make sure our cats and dogs stay out of danger.

Bundled up pet owners like Mona Butterfield came out to James Hunter Park in Clarendon ahead of Tuesday’s single-digit chill.

“It's the only way I could stay outside so that he could get a good run," she said while half her face was covered by her puffy coat.

Tuesday’s winter weather will likely put outdoor doggie playtime on hold.

“If it gets really cold, I don't even think she's going to want to come here," said Mary Margaret Schoenfeld of her pooch.

Christopher Rainer is considering investing in a jacket for his dog and worries that not everyone is making their pet's warmth a priority.

“Just like with anything else, some people don't take prudence with things they should," said Rainer.

Fairfax County Animal Shelter is temporarily opening its doors to companion animals searching for warmth.

“As soon as we saw the dangerous weather that was being forecasted, we knew immediately that we were in a position and had a responsibility to offer emergency shelter for folks that needed it," said shelter director Tawny Hammond.

She’s welcoming in any pet that cannot be brought indoors for whatever reason. For example, many homeless shelters do not allow animals. Cats, dogs and rabbits can stay in the Fairfax shelter until the cold snap ends Thursday.

“General rule of thumb is if it's too cold for you, it's too cold for them,” informed Hammond.

She says even if you bundle up your dogs in sweaters or put on doggie booties, their faces are still exposed. Your best bet during the extreme cold: take your dog out just to do business and come back inside. Make sure to also clean their paws off right away of ice and salt.

For more information, contact the Fairfax County Animal Shelter at (703) 830-1100. Representatives will take calls about the emergency shelter until midnight Monday and Tuesday night.