PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Animal shelter officials in Allegheny County are urging pet owners to keep their animals inside during below-freezing temperatures.

With single digits expected Saturday night into Sunday morning if you don’t keep your pets inside during these bitter cold temperatures, you could face charges.

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Frigid temperatures don’t just affect us, it’s “ruff” for our four-legged friends too.

“Just like with us, they can get sick, they can get hurt, and it’s very unsafe for them to be out in these very cold temperatures so you want to make sure you’re caring for them just like you would any other member of your family,” said Katie Becchi, director of care and placement services at Animal Friends.

Humane investigators at Animal Friends receive three-to-five weather-related calls about dogs and cats daily.

In Pennsylvania, it’s still illegal to leave your dogs tethered outside for longer than 30 minutes when it’s below 32 degrees. Also, dogs must have a shelter that allows them to maintain normal body temperature and keeps them dry.

If you neglect to do so, you’re looking at anything from a summary offense with 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine to a felony with seven years in jail and a $15,000 fine.

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So no matter what breed of dog you have… “Just because they have thicker fur doesn’t mean they should be locked out for longer periods of time,” Becchi said.

With single digits expected, remember your pets can get frostbite and hypothermia too.

“Whenever it’s below 30 degrees, you want to make sure you’re keeping your potty breaks or time outside very short, only a few minutes,” Becchi said.

When responding to a call about an animal in the cold or heat, the shelter does what’s best for the animal.

“Whenever the animals do come in here, we can help take care of them, medically get them fixed up, and hopefully find them a forever home. But also if we see an animal like that, it’s an opportunity for us to better our community and educate them,” Becchi said.

If you see an animal that needs help in the cold, you can call your local police department or Animal Friends humane officer at 412-847-7066.

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