Safe or Sorry?
Every owner has to decide what is an acceptable risk for her own dog.
After experiencing a collar-related near-fatality (see facing page), I’ve been checking every dog I know, to be sure their collars are equipped with quick-release buckles. Suddenly, I’m a safety nut, which is interesting, because I’m more commonly accused of putting my dogs at risk (because I often walk with them off-leash on trails).
The fact is, there are innumerable risk to our dogs’ health and safety. And each owner gets to – has to – do a little risk/benefit analysis and decide for herself which risks to take with her dog. I’ve heard about dogs being hurt by all of the following (and experienced a few with my own dogs):
- Keeping a collar and ID tags on a dog at home, or in a crate (could get caught)
- Feeding home-prepared diets (incomplete and unbalanced)
- Feeding diets that contain raw meat (Salmonella)
- Feeding raw bones (choking, intestinal perforation)
- Feeding commercial foods (contamination, lack of wholesomeness)
- Offering rawhides or pizzles (choking, obstruction, Salmonella)
- Using a reduced vaccination schedule (disease)
- Driving with a dog in the back of a truck, loose or secured (debris hits dog/injures eyes, dog falls out of vehicle)
- Driving with a dog loose in the car (dog gets flung from car in accident and gets injured or lost)
- Leaving a dog in the car while shopping/banking (injury/overheated/stolen)
- Leaving a dog tied outside while you get coffee or ice cream or something (injury, attack by another dog,stolen)
- Using spot-on flea or tick pesticides (poisoning, cancer)
- Not using spot-on tick pesticides in tick-laden areas (tick-borne disease)
- Letting a dog eat grass (possibly sprayed)
- Letting a dog off-leash on trails (can run away, chase/harm animals, cause problems with other dogs/hikers/bicyclists/equestrians)
- Letting a dog off-leash anywhere else (can run away or be hit by car)
- Bringing a dog to a dog park (disease, dog fights, traumatic social interactions)
- Taking a dog on a boat (drowning)
- Shipping a dog by air (dog can get sick, or be lost, traumatized, or killed)
- Boarding a dog (illness, injury, loss, mistreatment)
- Sledding, hunting, search and rescue, and all other outdoor activities with dogs (injury, exhaustion, loss)
Personally, I don’t think it’s conscionable to tell people what they must or must not do with their own dogs, or to disparage them for the choices they make. I do want people to be aware of the risks of various choices, and will sometimes tell an owner about the risks of something she is doing with her dog – and, of course, sometimes other people tell me! But I also accept that people have the right to take responsibility for their own decisions, even the ones I suspect they will regret.
Sometimes this is painful to watch. For example, I can’t bear to see dogs ride loose in the backs of trucks. I almost had a nervous breakdown once driving behind a flatbed truck with a stock-dog who was pacing back and forth behind the cab of the truck, barking, completely unsecured in any way. But it may have been just as painful for the owner of that dog to watch me feed my dog a raw chicken neck.