With winter here, pets need proper care to survive the freezing temperatures and harsh winter elements.

Donna Crum, Carbon County Animal Cruelty officer and coordinator for the County Animal Response Team, reminds pet owners to make sure any animals that live outside have fresh water and food at all times, as well as proper shelter and bedding to keep them warm.

"You have to realize that you have to be proactive with your animals to keep them healthy," she said, adding that any animal, whether they are an indoor or outdoor animal, needs the proper care to stay safe during the winter. "Imagine being outside 24 hours a day."

Crum gave the following descriptions of proper supplies for animals when outdoors.

Ÿ Shelter: Coops and kennels should have at least three solid sides to help block wind, snow and rain. Makeshift shelters, such as cardboard boxes with straw or blankets, can also be placed under stairways to help cats or other small animals that typically don't use kennels.

Ÿ Bedding: Crum recommends pet owners use straw as bedding in dog coops because it provides warmth. She also said blankets will work but they do freeze, so check them often. For all bedding, no matter the type, change it often because it gets wet and can freeze.

"You can't just put bedding in and forget about it until March," she said. "Bedding needs to be changed on a regular basis. Kennels also need to be shoveled out when it snows."

Ÿ Exercise: Animals that are outdoors need exercise to keep their blood flowing. Crum said pet owners should walk outdoor animals to help them stay warm. She reminds people that breathing bitter cold air can cause a buildup of moisture in the animal's lungs to occur and cause respiratory problems or pneumonia.

Ÿ Nutrition: There should always be fresh water and food available to the animal, meaning that pet owners should check and refill supplies numerous times a day. Water and dog and cat food will freeze if not eaten or drank quick enough. Crum said giving the animal warm chicken broth and rice can also help keep them warm.

"A lot of animals can survive outside with the proper supplies," Crum said.

She added that beside making sure animals have shelter and food, pet owners must also check them to make sure they are not sick or dehydrated.

"Check their breathing, see if they have a runny nose, listen to see if they have any rumbling in their chest, and watch when they are eating," Crum said. "Also, pinch their skin to see if they are dehydrated. If the skin doesn't flatten immediately, they can be dehydrated."

If the animals has signs of being sick, make sure to get them to a veterinarian to get checked and treated.

If these measures are not followed, pet owners can be cited by officials for animal cruelty, she said.

Crum added that if anyone is in need of straw for animal bedding, they can contact her at (610) 826-4901 and leave a message. With the amount of messages she has been receiving, she will return calls as soon as she can.

Crum also announced that the CART team's next meeting will be Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the Emergency Management Agency in Nesquehoning. The team is always looking for volunteers who want to help animals during emergency situations.