by: Michael Finn
Wisconsin’s current leash law allows dogs to be unrestrained as long as they remain on their owner’s property. The problem with this is that no one can be certain their pet will stay within these boundaries. When animals, other pets, people, or motor vehicles pass by, a whole slew of dangers are introduced. While people may argue their pet is incapable of harming anyone, the CDC reports that there is an estimated 4.5 million dog bites each year in the United States. So whether your dog is friendly or not, we all have a responsibility as pet owners to keep our animals, and others in our community, safe from harm. This article discusses some of the dangers concerning unleashed dogs.
1.2 million dogs are hit by motor vehicles each year in the United States. Unleashed dogs make up a large chunk of this number. Even if you believe your pet will stick by you on a walk, or will stay in your yard, for their sake, keep them secure and supervised at all times. While you may trust your pet, you can never trust every passing driver.
Other Dogs and Wildlife
Unleashed dogs are prone to attacking, and being attacked by other pets and wildlife. Although rare, they even maim people, including children and the elderly. As we continue to encroach on the habitats of wild animals, there will be an increase of encounters between our pets and wildlife.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin is a state that allows the violent trapping of wild animals. “Steel-jawed traps,” for instance, viciously snap down onto the limbs and paws of animals that are unlucky enough to stumble onto them. And while you may believe they’re only a danger for wildlife, think again. Pets, and even people, who roam into the woods are subject to being mangled by these atrocious traps as well. No matter how much regulation there is on trapping, there will always be people who set them illegally. According to John Olson, DNR furbearer biologist, “Dogs were caught in traps when there was a violation on the part of either the trapper or the dog owner.” This is a serious issue. Don’t let your dog become the next victim. Keep them leashed and secure at all times.
Pets are stolen every day in the United States. These animals are tortured, shot, used as bait for dog fighting, and sold for profit by their abductors. Sometimes the thief may wait for a reward to be posted, then return the animal for money. As disturbing as it sounds, abducted dogs are even sold to companies who conduct animal testing. If your dog is unleashed, or unsupervised in a fenced yard for prolonged periods of time, he/she could succumb to such horrors.
Poisons and discarded food
Antifreeze and rat poison are among two of the toxins that dogs can get into if they’re unleashed. They could also eat discarded “food,” such as bones, which could splinter in their bodies and require surgery. Onions, chocolate, garlic, grapes, and various other foods are toxic to your pet as well. Even if you’re supervising your unleashed dog, they could discover something very dangerous and ingest it before you can intervene.
Make periodic visual checks
Even if your pet is responsibly fastened to a tie-out, your pet could be stolen or attacked by other animals, including unleashed dogs, eagles, owls, cats, and coyotes. Invisible fences, while popular, offer no sense of protection to your pet, as intruders can get into your yard, but your pet cannot escape. While these scenarios are unlikely, they can, and do happen. To be safe, it’s always important to make periodic visual checks on your pet, even if they’re fenced in.
Avoid retractable leashes
Although they’re stylish and provide your pet with more freedom, retractable leashes can pose serious dangers for your pet. Not only can dogs inadvertently stumble into the street when they’re distanced from you, but they can also break free when mechanisms inside the leash falter. Retractable leashes can sometimes slip out of the hands of owners when they experience an unexpected tug from their dog. You should choose a leash that you can wrap around your wrist and can hold firmly with your palm. It should range between 4-6 feet in length. Compare this with the retractable leashes that allow 26 feet of slack!
In a perfect world there would be no need for leashes, fences, and gates. Our pups would be able to sniff every inch of the neighborhood without fear of harm. But that’s not reality. We live alongside countless dangers. Because of this, our pets depend on us to keep them safe. Likewise, as citizens, we have a responsibility to keep other people, their pets, and wildlife safe as well. Although you may think an accident will never happen to you or your dog, the chance is always present. Don’t gamble on the life of your pet. Always leash and supervise.