I'm never really sure what to do when it comes to other people's companion animals. It is really cold now (17 degrees F, -8 degrees C) and once in awhile I see a cat patiently waiting in front of a doorway. I'm not really a cat person, and MoBob's village sensibilities do not extend to American pets (though he's a cat person). On Saturday evening when we walked home we saw a cat in front of a neighbor's door. The lights inside were on and I thought of ringing the doorbell to alert the residents. MB suggested I wait until later; when I checked again the cat was gone. Then last night when it was really, really, cold and windy, we heard another neighbor's dog bark mournfully til past midnight.
We bought a set of the Frog and Toad books for a pair of small humans we know. I actually didn't read these books as a kid, but for giggles I checked them out of the library, and we read them together. One day MB overheard a couple of kids talking about the books and one insisted on repeatedly asking the other, "Are you a frog or a toad?" We ask each other that sometimes. I'd say MB's the Frog and I'm the Toad.
Cats generally wait in front of doors and have ways of notifying the humans inside that they want in -- they scratch or meow or throw themselves against the door repeatedly. I suspect if it were below zero out here, though, I'd disapprove of people letting their cats. OTOH, our cats are amazing escape artists and go out in all sorts of weather only to discover 15 seconds later that they really didn't want to be out there. I don't know of a way to adequately determine if someone else's cat is content and waiting to be let in after a brief sojourn outside or is being neglected, nor do I know of a good way to bring authorities in.
Dogs shouldn't be left outside late at night in below zero conditions. That's pretty much neglect, although people can and do make nice warm doghouses and so forth. If the dog is howling longer than a half-hour, you can call in a noise complaint to the police; the cops will go out and check on the dog (and reprimand the owners for letting it get to a state where it howls). Of course, you then risk sentencing the dog to abandonment somewhere depending on what kind of people the owners are.
I recommend not living in a snowy climate, so that you don't have to make these decisions any more. Alternately, perhaps your local SPCA has some advice.
Thanks for all the good advice - I will definitely follow up. It's hard to figure out which house the dog belongs to. The dog is also vocal (but not bothersome) during the summer but obviously that's a different story.
That makes me sad about the animals. You could confront your neighbors about it, but some people don't like that (like with children, people don't like being told how to treat their pets). If it's a continuous problem, you may want to notify the police or talk to a local animal shelter to see what your options are.
I've never read the Frog and Toad books. Then again, I never read a lot of the books that were popular growing up. :(