01/05/2014 13:38 EST | Updated 03/07/2014 05:59 EST

Concerns raised for guard dogs kept in the cold

A Montreal plumbing company is facing complaints from animal welfare advocates concerned about two guard dogs kept outside in freezing temperatures.

Roger Barré, owner of J. Jodoin Plumbing in the city’s South-West borough, told CBC News that the two dogs are rented from a company to provide security against thieves. The company that rents them is responsible for their care and provides them with food and water morning and night. 

He did not name the company.

Barré said the dogs live in separate shelters insulated against the cold and covered by a blue plastic tarp.

He's rented the dogs for five years and hasn't had any trouble, he said. Barré added that the SPCA has visited the dogs in the past and didn't find anything wrong.

"They've never been mistreated. I'm not someone who mistreats animals," he said.

Deep freeze sparks calls

Animal ambulance service K-911 reported receiving numerous calls during the recent spell of freezing weather from people concerned for the dogs’ well-being.

Though the service does not have a mandate to intervene in such situations, owner Rodney McLean said the number of calls he was getting led him to stop by and see for himself.

“If enough people call about cruelty to animals, we will go check it out,” he told CBC News.

McLean said he didn’t like what he found and was especially concerned for one of the dogs.

“He was cold and scared, his vocal cords were cut. It's me, it's cruel,” he said.

McLean took photos of the dogs and posted them to K-911’s Facebook page.

The outpouring of concern from the page’s followers had the phone at J. Jodoin ringing off the hook. The owner responded by inviting K-911 to come by and have a look at the dogs’ shelter.

"He showed us two dogs in a cage and they had wooden boxes with some Styrofoam around it," said McLean

McLean’s contention that the dogs need heat during periods of extreme cold was rebutted by Philippe Gagnon, an employee of J. Jodoin who also spoke to CBC News.

"Would you need heat if you had four-inch thick fur,” he said.

Montreal veterinarian Dr. Amanda Nuzzi told CBC News a dog’s fur is usually not enough against the freezing cold, with the possible exception of a few Arctic breeds.

"In these weather conditions that we've been having, it's not because dogs have fur that we can keep them outside, or assume that they'll be warm enough just with their fur,” she said.

Dogs need a well-insulated space and access to food and fresh water.

“Guard dogs or not, they should have a place they can go to to warm up," she said.

Barré said he would call the SPCA on Monday to inspect the dogs and their shelters. In the meantime, McLean has taken the photos down from his Facebook page, pending the results of the SPCA's visit.