MANCHESTER, Tenn. — A Tennessee woman is speaking out after she says her neighbor’s dog was left out in the cold and froze to death.
The woman, who didn’t want to share her name, called Manchester Animal Control Thursday after she saw the dog named Tuffy lying motionless on the ground behind a home on Old Bushy Branch Road. She said he didn’t respond when she called his name, and she feared he had passed away.
“It’s a mix of heartbreak because this is so senseless, and it’s also anger because it didn’t have to happen,” said the woman.
She said she had kept an eye on the dog over the last year and was concerned about his well-being. She said he lived primarily on a chain in the backyard. She said she had called animal control multiple times to express her concerns.
She described Tuffy as a fluffy mixed-breed dog with brown and white hair.
Officials with Manchester City Animal Control confirmed the dog did pass away, but it was unclear if he froze to death. They say he also showed symptoms of a possible illness. A necropsy has been ordered, and once the results have been reviewed, officers will determine if it is necessary to pursue charges against the owner.
Officials said dog did have access to food, water and shelter, and they had not been called to the house before.
The neighbor said the situation is unacceptable, and she also worried about other dogs in her neighborhood often left outside on chains.
“This isn’t the first time this will happen, and it’s not the last time it’s going to happen,” she said.
She shared the story on Facebook and the post almost instantly received hundreds of comments and shares. She said she hoped the story would bring attention to the fact she believed Tennessee needs tougher animal cruelty laws. She also hoped it would be a reminder to pet parents to take care of their animals in the extreme cold.
“I want this to be illegal,” she said. “This shouldn’t be OK.”
Tracy Ralston, Tuffy's owner, replied with a statement: "Tuffy was never mistreated or neglected. The neighbor just lied and we don't appreciate being accused. The neighbor didn't know Tuffy's family history." She went on to say she got Tuffy when he was 4 months old. Her husband went to feed him on Tuesday and he didn't want to eat, the owner claims. On Wednesday, he stayed inside his dog house, but they kept an eye on him. She said, "We loved him, and no one wants to see their pet get sick and die."
Metro Animal Care and Control said owners need to be considerate of pets and bring them inside when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. If outside, pets need a warm, solid shelter like a dog house to protect against wind and elements and insulate their body against the cold. It is best to elevate the floor of the shelter off the ground, and provide plenty of dry thick bedding that cannot become soaked with water. Straw or cedar shavings can also be used.
A pet’s tolerance to cold weather can vary based on their health, body fat and coat. Check paws frequently for signs of cold weather injury. Ice can accumulate between toes and cause injury and limping. Outdoor pets will need increased calories in the winter to maintain their body condition and stay warm.