I know that life is short and so I really try to take advantage of every day. Each day is a gift. I try to do a mental reset each morning, let go of past differences and focus on doing something good. But this morning proved again that the way in which you care for your dog makes it really hard for me to stay positive on some days.
I know that there are cultural differences when it comes to dogs and how we treat them. Some dogs are family members. Some dogs serve some function or purpose related to security or hunting. Some dogs live outside all the time and are used as a sort of living security system. I heard on a program recently that for some, the attitude is that “animals don't come inside unless they're going on a plate.” As offensive as that statement was to me, I get it. Your dog is your dog and while your treatment of your dog may cause me to lose sleep at night, there is little I can do about it unless you are breaking the law.
Most cites and counties across the country have laws about dogs running at large. These laws are not about interfering with your personal decisions about how you treat your “property.” They are about public safety. While you may think it is appropriate to let your dog run loose and you may think your dog will not harm or scare anyone, the law in most places makes it illegal to liberate your dog each day to roam the land as if it was still 1870. Not everyone likes dogs and some people are afraid of them. The people most likely to be injured by a dog are children and the elderly. Even if your dog is so incredibly docile that it would never harm or scare a person, your dog is still no match for fast-moving vehicles or even slow-moving drivers who are not paying attention. Beyond the whole injury or death issues, there are financial issues involved. When you allow your dog to run at large, he or she may be picked up by animal control authorities, causing taxpayer dollars to be used to house, feed and then perhaps destroy your dog. If your dog is killed by a vehicle, taxpayer dollars are used for the costs of removing the body of your dog from state and federal roadways and rights-of-way.
I understand that dogs get loose and not every dog outside is there due to someone's irresponsibility. If your dog lives outside and is a fence jumper, digger or has the propensity to bolt when a gate is left ajar, I want you to take steps to keep your dog contained. You can use a fence or a run line for this. If you say you cannot afford those items, then bring your dog inside. It's just that simple. Most dogs are easily house trained and in the end, it is up to you to learn your dog's language, teach him to learn yours and give him the structure and exercise he needs.
There is talk of doing a round-up of loose dogs in Houston in advance of the Super Bowl. Those dogs are or were someone's pet or were born outside to dogs who were someone's pets. It will be a tragic loss if those dogs are summarily killed just to make the city look better and so the city can say it worked hard to ensure public safety. It should have been addressing the stray dog issue all along and before it got to the point where things got so out of hand.
I have the phone numbers for five Department of Transportation Offices on my phone and I had to call one of them again this morning on my way to work. He was in the middle of the road between the 308 and 309 mile markers in the northbound lanes. I came upon him unexpectedly because there was a lot of traffic. It took my breath away to see him. But I made the call. And then I cried for your dog. You will never know what happened to him even though I do.
Please. Keep your dogs safe. Not just for public safety purposes. Because you owe it to them to help them live long and full lives. It's not 1870 anymore.
(frontier image courtesy of the Utah Historical Society)
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson