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Amanda Steed, an adoptions councilor at McKamey Animal Center, gives Chloe some attention on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015.

As night temperatures start dropping below freezing, pets left outside can suffer or even die from exposure.

"The bitter cold and numbing wetness of winter can create life-threatening conditions for those animals kept outdoors, especially when the animal is without the proper shelter or body condition," said Jamie McAloon, McKamey Animal Center executive director, in a news release. "Hypothermia rapidly sets in."

Tennessee law requires outdoor dogs to have proper shelter. McKamey is helping people in need provide that shelter, offering doghouses and straw to those who cannot bring their pets inside.

"These doghouses, along with the donated straw, are saving lives," McAloon said. "Freezing temperatures quickly take a toll on dogs without proper shelter. These programs prevent animal suffering."

Chattanooga bans leaving dogs on a chain between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Shelters must be enclosed to retain the animal's body heat.

Even a normal doghouse without heating can provide important insulation and protection from rain, sleet, snow and wind. The optimal situation, however, is to bring animals indoors during cold nights.

McKamey encourages people to report to the proper authorities pets that don't have proper shelter.

And it's not just physical protection an animal needs. In winter, their caloric needs are higher in the cold.

At the shelter's food bank, owners in a financial pinch also can get food for their pets. Last week, the animal shelter distributed more than 1,000 pounds of dog and cat food to people in need.

"This was probably the biggest distribution we've seen in just one week," said Samantha Vincent, food bank coordinator. "Many families just need a helping hand, and keeping their pet with them means everything to them."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer@timesfreepress.com, @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

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