Kern County Animal Control officers are still reeling after a discovery Monday morning.
In the freezing cold temperatures, they found three small dogs abandoned outside the shelter, with no blanket and icicles hanging all over their metal cage.
The good news is those dogs are going to survive. Workers found the cage in the nick of time over by the administrative offices. The bad news, their former owner got away with nearly killing the three dogs.
"They could have froze out there to death in these temperatures," said Lisa Paul with Kern County Animal Control. "I mean, think of it, sitting on a metal cage with no blanket filled with ice, very cold."
Animal Control workers took pictures of the three small, skinny dogs abandoned at the shelter Monday morning. Paul was among the first to find them.
"They were right here underneath this air conditioning unit," said Paul.
For hours overnight, long enough for the condensation to freeze to the bars, the former owner left the dogs in the cage along with a handwritten letter.
"Sorry for leaving the city. Cannot afford to take them," Paul read from the letter.
The letter goes on to say it was an emergency and they are sure Animal Control will find new homes.
A full day later, the dogs are warming up. Lea, a 4-year-old Maltese, is letting people hold her, but her hair is matted to her skin. The two chihuahuas, Fea and Diamond, won't leave each other's side, still huddled up from their experience.
17 News shared the photos with local veterinarian, Dr. Ann Hamilton, at Affordable Pet Hospital.
"Oh, my Lord," said Dr. Hamilton. "Were they brought outside? Oh, my."
Dr. Hamilton says some dogs and cats, especially in Bakersfield, can get hypothermia in frigid temperatures in half an hour.
"Their body fat level is not there," explained Dr. Hamilton. "Their coat level definitely is not there. Now, if they live in the Midwest and they are used to being outside, their coat is thicker."
Animal Control charges owners $20 to surrender their pets. It pays for food, shelter, and a medical evaluation. They say animals can get adopted out faster that way since they won't need the five-day stray hold. It's free to turn in strays and the shelter can opt to waive the surrender fee if the owner explains special circumstances. And, it's far safer than dumping animals.
"I mean, if you have to take your dog to the shelter, please do it during business hours so they don't suffer like that," said Paul.
The shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on Wednesdays. Then it's open from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m..
It's important to note there are several security cameras. Officers are looking at footage to see if they can find whomever left those dogs. Officers say they could face abandonment and neglect charges.