A motorist driving a couple days before Christmas found a litter of puppies freezing in boxes as temperatures hovered around -20 near a road southwest of Portage la Prairie.

“Sure enough, as soon as I pulled in front of this box, this little head poked up above the box and I said ‘Oh, no.’ You could see these two tiny little puppies,” said Allison Milne.

Two of the puppies were still alive. At least two others in another box were dead, said Milne. She said it looked like they'd been run over.

Miranda Cochrane from the Brandon Humane Society said the shelter sees an increase in the number of pets abandoned by owners in the cold season.

"They don't have enough fur and fat on them to sustain survival in this type of weather so putting them on the side of the highway - they can't make it,” said Cochrane.

The Brandon Humane Society stops adoptions about two weeks before Christmas until the new year. The shelter said people need to understand the responsibilities of pet ownership before adopting.

“If it's a Christmas present, you're not picking out the puppy. Somebody else is picking it out for you. It may not be what you want and then it's discarded,” said Cochrane.

The puppies found alive near Portage are said to be in good health and are about six weeks old.

The woman who found them is taking them to the Brandon Humane Society where they’ll stay until there’s a permanent place for them to live.

The Winnipeg Humane Society said it never discourages anyone from adopting animals at any time of the year, but the shelter adds it cautions people before they take an animal home about the responsibility that comes with owning a pet.