See a Dog Living Outside in the Cold and Want to Help? Here’s How

The temperature is dropping, so if you want to help a dog living outside in the cold, here are tips from FIDO on what you can do.
A FIDO case manager with an outside dog

A photo of FIDO Founder Darcie Kurtz and her dog
FIDO’s Darcie Kurtz with her adopted dog, who formerly lived outside

The temperatures are getting ridiculously low right now, and that means that there are many local dogs living outside that could potentially be in need of help.

FIDO, or Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside, is a local animal welfare group working to improve the lives of outside dogs. FIDO was co-founded in 2005 by two local women, one of whom is FIDO’s current Executive Director, Darcie Kurtz. 

“Back then, there wasn’t much awareness of the many dogs living on the end of a chain in the backyards of Indianapolis. We decided to form our little band of volunteers and get out into the neighborhoods to help these dogs however we could,” Kurtz says.


A dog FIDO has helped
An outside dog that FIDO helped

In the past 17 years, FIDO’s size and reach has grown dramatically, with a current staff of five employees, five part-time contracted staff, and 65 volunteers. Most of FIDO’s staff and volunteers are women, a common theme in the field of animal welfare. You will primarily find FIDO working directly out in the field, and the organization’s four main programs include outreach (proactive alley outreach and follow-up home visits), spay/neuter transport, a pet food and supplies pantry, and fence building. 

FIDO works with dog owners to help them improve the living conditions of their dogs, and with no law-enforcement authority, the organization learned early on that the best way to help the dogs was to help their people.

“Most people really want to comply with the law and take good care of their dogs. But sometimes, people just don’t know the requirements and need a little help with resources. These are the people we really want to reach,” Kurtz tells us.

“We decided to form our little band of volunteers and get out into the neighborhoods to help these dogs however we could.”


Local animal shelters are almost always at capacity, so FIDO works to help keep dogs happy, healthy, and in their own homes whenever possible.

Several times each week, FIDO staff and volunteers conduct outreach in under-resourced neighborhoods, when they drive down alleys to find dogs living outside, and then offer help to their owners. The organization shares information with dog owners regarding the Indianapolis dog care and treatment ordinance:

  • Dogs must always have access to fresh liquid water and dry shelter from the elements.
  • Dogs must be provided with food sufficient to maintain a normal body weight.
  • The dog’s tether must be at least 12 feet long with swivels at both ends to prevent tangling.
  • Dogs cannot be tethered from 11 pm to 6 am, or during the day if they are not spayed or neutered.
  • If a dog is kept in a fenced pen, the pen must be at least 100 square feet in area. There needs to be an additional 50 square feet for each additional dog in the pen, or if the dog weighs over 80 pounds.
  • When outside temperatures fall to 40 degrees F or below, dogs must have a flexible cover over the opening of their doghouse, with straw bedding thick enough for the dog to burrow into for warmth.
  • When outside temperatures fall to 20 degrees F or below, dogs must be brought inside a temperature-controlled building kept between 40 and 80 degrees F.
A former outside dog snoozing inside
A former outside dog snoozing inside

They offer direct assistance to help people comply with the ordinance requirements by providing dog food, warm and dry dog houses with straw bedding, inside training crates, flea treatment, collars and leashes, and free spay/neuter with vaccinations. Once all dogs in the home are spayed or neutered, FIDO helps with secure fencing to free dogs from their chained confinement.

Kurtz shares, “One of our biggest joys is seeing dogs turned loose in one of our fenced enclosures to run, play, and simply be dogs.”


A dog in the snow chained to a dog house
Another outside dog FIDO helped

If you or someone you know needs help with their own dogs this winter, or at any time, the best way to contact FIDO is through their helpline at 317-221-1314.

And if you are concerned about the welfare of someone else’s dog living outside in the cold, our local animal welfare enforcement authority in Indianapolis is Indianapolis Animal Care Services. The best way to reach IACS is through RequestIndy. The animal care officer will refer dog owners to FIDO if they are receptive to help.

One of FIDO’s clients, who wanted to remain anonymous, offered her thanks for FIDO’s help: “We were in crisis, no job or means of support, with two large dogs and a cat to feed. We were so worried about feeding and caring for each of their needs. Were it not for FIDO, we would probably have had to take our pets to a shelter.”

FIDO is a 501(c)3 non-profit that relies on charitable donations from the public to fund its work. All donations are tax-deductible and can be made through their website, through their Facebook page, or mailed to FIDO, P.O. Box 30069, Indianapolis, IN 46230. FIDO can also always use volunteer help, so to get involved, please contact the FIDO volunteer coordinator.

Stephanie Groves is the new Executive Editor of Indy Maven and a shameless dog lover, hence this article. (Don’t worry, she likes cats too, but is extremely allergic to them.)

All of our content—including this article—is completely free. However, we’d love if you would please consider supporting our journalism with an Indy Maven membership.

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