By Lisa Wagner
Operations Director of Walks N Wags Pet First Aid
Pet peeves. Pardon the pun, but all pet lovers have them. When it comes to the safety of our beloved animals, some of our pet peeves are certainly warranted. Each of us can visualize a moment where we saw a pet in a risky situation. Think back to your personal memory. Do you remember the disbelief, panic, and maybe even anger that someone put a helpless animal at risk? Next you may have thought: “What should I do? Do I confront the owner? And if I do, how will they react? ” We’ve all been there. As animal lovers we never want to see harm come to an animal, especially if the incident could have been prevented.
Fortunately, many injuries and even illnesses can be prevented with attention and care. By taking the time to educate ourselves and foresee possible risks to our animals, we can even potentially save their lives.
Two pet safety peeves that are easily preventable include: leaving dogs loose in truck beds and tying pets up unattended outside stores unattended. Well-meaning pet owners may not realize the hazards their pets face in these circumstances! Learning more about these dangers and taking action might mean that you will save a life.
DOGS LOOSE IN TRUCK BEDS
To some, it looks like fun for a dog to ride along in the back of pickup trucks. The fur blows in the breeze, the tongue hangs out and the animal looks thrilled to be free. Unfortunately, the risks of being loose in a truck bed are just too significant. In fact, the Motor Vehicle Acts and Animal Care Acts of most provinces specifically prohibit this practice!
- No protection from the elements. When thinking of elements like heat from the sun, don’t forget risk of hypothermia and frostbite from windchill and cold in winter. Each of these ailments can be deadly.
- Your dog is at risk of being a projectile. A quick turn or sudden stop is all that it takes for your dog to fall out of the truck, or even come through the back window into the cab.
- Jumping out of the vehicle. No matter how well trained a dog is, it is not a robot. There is always the risk that some sort of creature or other item of interest may lure your dog out of the vehicle one day. Even if your pet is tethered into the vehicle, jumping out could result in dragging injuries such as road rash…or worse.
- Stress. What might look fun to you, isn’t necessarily for them. Not all dogs feel stable in this environment.
- Theft. Your worst nightmare. Your dog could be stolen. Stopping in to a store or to see a friend for a few minutes? Thieves are opportunist and your dog is an easy target. It’s not worth the taking the risk.
- Monetary fine. If you get pulled over by police, be prepared to fork over some cash in fines.
If you see an animal unsecured in a truck bed, there are many things you can do to take action.
- If the vehicle is parked and the owner is present, politely let them know that you care about their animal’s well-being and that you aren’t sure that they are aware of the risk to their beloved pet. Education, when presented calmly and without judgement can often have a favorable outcome.
- If the vehicle is parked and the owner is no present, if it’s safe to do so, please assess the health of the animal. If you are concerned about the animal overheating or conversely being too cold, please call your local Animal Control or SPCA for assistance. Contact a Veterinarian if you are concerned about the dog’s health.
- If the vehicle is moving, take a snapshot with your smartphone (if it is safe to do so). Contact your local non-emergency police with the licence plate number , description of vehicle, and what street the vehicle is traveling on.
- If you are a truck owner yourself, consider the following safer options:
- Consider keeping your dog inside the cab with you.
- Purchase a well vented crate and secure it safely onto your vehicle.
- Use a well-fit body harness and tether your dog with a short enough leash that there is no risk of jumping over.
- Remember to consider the elements when your dog is in your truck. Provide bedding and fresh water.
- Supervise your dog at all times. Do not leave dogs unattended in a truck bed.
DOGS TIED UP UNATTENDED
Every one of us has seen it: the forlorn pup waiting outside the coffee shop or grocery store. Sometimes the dog is indifferent, other times panic-stricken. Perhaps, this pup even belongs to you. You had to pop in to pick up a jug of milk, a coffee, or even collect your child from school.
Please think twice about doing this; there are some definite risks associated with leaving our pets unattended:
- Theft. Theft is the most obvious risk. While the risks are small, they do exist and coming out to find one’s animal gone would be devastating.
- Mistreatment. Simply put, not everyone knows how to appropriately approach and touch dogs. This particularly applies to children, who tend to move quickly, make loud noises, and if not previously educated, may touch animals too roughly.
- Injury. We have no idea who or what is going to pass by while our dog is unattended. Another dog could attack our dog. A predatory bird could attack your small dog. A parking car could jump the curb and injure your dog. Pets are safest when supervised by their human guardians.
- Elements. Pets left outside in the heat, the cold, or the pouring rain simply have no way to protect themselves from the elements. It’s our job to protect them from such hazards.
While it’s very possible the owner will be right back, if you are concerned about the dog’s well-being for any reason here are some actions you can take.
- Stay with the dog. Just staying with the dog and keeping it company is a buffer from harm.
- If the animal is at risk from the elements (heat, cold, excessive rain) please do your best to shelter them. Offer water if the animal is overheating (only if it is conscious).
- Check for ID. If the dog has ID call the owner and politely express your concern.
- Send someone inside. Ask around to see who owns the dog in question. When you find the owner, please let them know you are a caring citizen and report what had you concerned.
- Have the owner contact a Veterinarian if you are concerned about the dog’s health.
Education is an important part of pet health and safety. Becoming aware of preventable injuries and taking action to protect one’s pet is a wonderful gift to give them.
If you aren’t sure where to start, reach out to your local Veterinarian, Humane Society, SPCA, or another respected pet professional.
All pet owners want their pets to live long, happy lives. We have the power to help make that happen by steering our pets clear of illness and injury. Remember, the best form of pet first aid is prevention.
Photo credits, the small dog Derry was photographed by Cicy Guimond and the larger dog Tacoma was photographed by Charlene dela Cruz.