With the season’s first blanket of snow on the ground and temperatures dropping, a night outside is tough for lost pets. Anchorage Animal Care and Control (AACC) provides a warm, safe place if you find an animal and can’t take it home for the night.

On the backside of the facility, the night-drop kennels are an after-hours refuge for lost animals. There are four doors for small animals and three large doors for big animals. Once one of the doors is opened, it locks so the animal can’t escape and no one can accidentally open an occupied kennel.

On the inside, the kennels are heated and the animal will have access to water. Every morning, a staff member checks the kennels to see if any animals were dropped off.

Sometimes, staff at AACC says people don’t know the kennels are an option, or they don’t use them correctly. Earlier this week, someone tried to put a dog in one of the kennels, but ended up leaving it loose, outside the facility.

“Somebody was trying to get the dog in the kennels at about 11 that night I believe and the security cameras showed the dog waiting out here until about 6 in the morning,” said Laura Atwood, spokesperson for Animal Care and Control.

Atwood said staff was able to catch the dog and bring it in, but another time, someone left a cat inside one of the fenced play areas. The cat got out and staff never caught it.

“Obviously we feel for them,” Atwood said. “I still worry about that cat. I still wonder.”

The night-drop kennels are meant for stray animals. Atwood said people sometimes leave their pets inside, rather than bring them in and surrender them during normal business hours. She said this actually makes it harder on the pet, because without knowing where an animal came from, it has to be held for longer at the shelter before it can be put up for adoption.

If you leave an animal at the night-drop kennel, you’re asked to fill out a form, which are in a box near the doors. It tells staff important information, like where the animal was found. One side of the form is for stray animals. The other side is a surrender agreement, if someone has to drop off their pet outside business hours.

Atwood said she understand sometimes families can no longer care for a pet and have to bring it to the shelter, but dropping it off during business hours gives it the best chance of finding a new home quickly – which is the hope for every animal they take in.

“We’re always very grateful for the good Samaritans in our community who pick up those stray animals and bring them here,” Atwood said.

Anchorage Animal Care and Control is located at 4711 Elmore Road, right next to the Anchorage Police Department headquarters.

KTVA 11’s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter