By Melissa Garcia

DENVER CBS4) – Animal control officers are patrolling the neighborhoods looking for pets left out in the cold.

Denver Animal Protection has taken over 600 calls since September. The vast majority of those calls are for dogs left outside without any way to warm up.

CBS4 followed Animal Protection Officer Katie Kirk Monday on her way out to calls in southwest Denver. In response at one call Kirk came across a home where dogs were left outside without adequate shelter.

“There’s airline kennels, which have the holes on the sides. But with the weather we’re having, it’s not going to be considered adequate shelter because the air can get in, which means there’s no way from them to heat and keep themselves warm,” said Kirk.

Kirk planned to speak with the dogs’ owner to educate him on his options to keep his pets warm.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of they can’t afford to get a dog house. And we have a program that we work with here in Denver called ‘Buddy Builders’ where we can get those people dog houses,” said Kirk.

In the second call she responded to the owner had simply let her dog out to go to the bathroom. Kirk checked the dog’s ears and found that they were warm to the touch.

“As long as you’re not leaving (dogs) out for extended periods of time without a way to get out of the cold you’re fine,” said Kirk.

When in doubt about an animal’s safety, officials urge citizens to call Animal Protection.

“We always appreciate people calling in,” said Kirk. “It’s better that we get 12 calls on a dog than no calls on a dog, and that dog ends up suffering.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Pet owners can be issued a fine up to $999 and up to a year in jail for failure to provide adequate shelter from the cold.

Animal Protection advises pet owners to keep dogs inside during periods of extreme cold. If pets have to be outside for longer periods, city ordinance requires owners to provide outdoor shelter like a dog house, porch area, or similar structure that allows animals to escape the elements.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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