An unclothed human couldn’t survive a night in sub-freezing temperatures, but a thick-furred dog that is acclimated to living outdoors obviously can, as Herbert Weich’s border collies proved overnight Monday, when the mercury in Sprakers dipped to 5 degrees.
Weich, and state police who visited his outdoor breeding kennel in response to a citizen complaint New Year’s Eve but felt nothing amiss, were vindicated when the dogs survived another frigid night Monday. This came after a pair of animal rights activists from outside the region drove to Fonda Monday afternoon and tried valiantly to convince state Supreme Court Judge Joseph Sise that the dogs couldn’t.
Sise made the right call for the wrong reason — refusing to rule against state police until its legal representation could be heard from — but got away with it: The dogs endured the night.
Yet, after the local veterinarian who initially assured state police that the dogs had adequate shelter changed her mind, police cited Weich with a violation anyway. And they’re taking dozens of his 66 dogs away until some more substantial shelters get built for them. (He’d been using uninsulated plastic oil barrels, halved lengthwise and turned upside down like igloos.)
The “compromise” saves face for authorities, who were under pressure from animal rights activists near and far, and allows Weich to get his dogs back relatively easily and in relatively short order — if the promised insulated shelters get built. And while leaving any animal outside when it’s so cold might seem cruel to humans who have a hard time tolerating cold even under bundles of clothing, it’s not that unusual for certain breeds of dogs and other farm animals. Thus one can appreciate Weich’s bewilderment to some extent.
On the other hand, though the animals may not have been endangered being left out in uninsulated shelters, they couldn’t have been very comfortable.