What to do if your pet falls through the ice

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Good advice and reminder from the Bonneville County, Idaho Sheriff’s Office so we’ll pass it along.

“Recently, we’ve seen news reports of people that have unfortunately drown in icy water conditions while trying to rescue their pets on thin ice or icy water conditions,” said Sgt. Bryan Lovell, PIO with BCSO. “Winter in our area has frozen some parts of the Snake River, and our reservoirs and ponds. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone that these areas can still be very dangerous.”

Regardless of how thick ice conditions are on any body of water, currents and water flows still exist underneath the ice along with floating debris, zero visibility, and ice that can quickly cause snags and injuries. In addition, extremely cold water temperature will severely decrease your ability to self-rescue if you fall in. Hypothermia sets in within seconds and chances of survival are slim.

Typically, pets that venture out on icy waters and fall in will self-rescue before their owners or bystanders can get to them in the water. The Sheriff’s Office recommends you stay out of the water and attempt to find other means to help rescue a pet rather than risk your own life.

If you do end up in the icy waters, or witness someone who has fallen in, here are some basic tips to aid in rescue or first aid:

  • If you are witness to someone who fell in the water, call 911 immediately and be prepared to give an accurate description of the location of the problem, how many people are involved, and what happened.
  • If you end up in the icy waters, don’t panic! Quickly search for a way to pull yourself out and away from danger before you lose the ability to function in the cold.
  • Once a submerged person is out of the water and away from danger, take under consideration additional injuries besides hypothermia, and make a plan to move the person out of the cold and out of wet clothing. Monitor breathing of the victim and work to restore warmth slowly until emergency personnel can arrive. Consider that CPR may be necessary if the victim is not breathing and their pulse may be difficult to find due to the cold temperature of the body.

If you plan on winter recreation—whether it’s ice fishing, snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing—always dress appropriately and be prepared for emergency survival situations. Make sure loved ones know your location or route of travel and when you plan to return in the event you become stranded and might be in need of rescue.

“In our experience, the difference between life and death in any event comes down to preparedness,” Lovell added. “We would prefer to be ready and able to respond, however we know that accidents and emergencies happen. By being prepared and obeying warnings of dangerous conditions, you will greatly aide first responders in your rescue.”

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