You must have seen the commercials on TV for the ASPCA and other animal groups; dogs, with sad faces, that have been abused. Some beaten. Others locked in small cages and forgotten.

"Who could do that to a helpless animal?" you might ask.

The next few days are predicted to be the coldest in years. Tomorrow night, temperatures could plunge below zero.

Keeping your pet outdoors is equivalent to the cruelty you see on those TV commercials.

Some people mistakenly believed that pets have fur and can endure in all types of weather.

That's not necessary true. We've domesticated dogs and cats and they're not as acclimated to the rugged outdoor environment, especially in the bitter cold of winter. Especially pets that are penned up outdoors are susceptible to suffering. They can't move around. They can't seek shelter. They're trapped to endure the elements, which not only is cruel but can be deadly.

Like humans, younger and older pets especially find coping with the elements to be difficult.

Bring your pets indoors when it is so unbearably cold. If, by chance, they are outdoor pets, make sure you have plenty of shelter for them.

Check the food and water of your pets if it's kept outdoors. Water will freeze quickly; actually, within minutes.

Don't treat your pets like the owners of those depicted in the TV commercials do. Be compassionate to them. Protect them, especially from the brutality of winter.

And speaking of the cold, make sure you check on your friends and relatives who might be elderly or have a hard time affording to heat their homes.

The most repeated saying over the past few days was "Happy, New Year."

Make it happy for your pets, as well as for those going through difficult times.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]