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Walkies? How to Keep Pets Safe and Prevent Animal Attacks this Spring

The fine weather tends to mean that owners and dogs alike want to get out more. It also means your pets (and not just your dogs) may be at higher risk. Animals that get out are more likely to stay out an extended period in beautiful weather, for example. There are also seasonal concerns.

Here are some tips to keep pets safe—and for staying safe around other people’s pets—this spring.

For pet owners

  1. Keep your pet on a leash at all times. This mostly goes for dogs, but people do take cats and bunnies for leashed walks. Only let your dog loose at a proper, fenced off-leash area. If the dog park is split by size, always go to the appropriate side. Never let dogs that are known to be aggressive towards other loose dogs at the dog park.
  2. Make sure your pet is up to date on all of their shots. Talk to your vet about the bright vaccination schedule for your dog. All dogs need to be vaccinated against rabies and should get the combination distemper/adenovirus/parvovirus shot every three years. Depending on your climate, your vet might recommend vaccinating against Lyme disease. Dogs that routinely go to dog parks or doggy daycare are at higher risk of contagious illness than ones which are kept mostly isolated, and should probably get their flu shots.
  3. Train your dog. This includes smaller dogs which tend to be neglected as owners think they can just pick the dog up. Every owner should consider putting their dog through the Canine Good Citizen program. Some landlords and homeowners’ associations now require the test. It’s a ten-part test covering things like sitting politely for petting, walking on a loose leash, coming when called, etc. You can either take classes or learn how to do the training yourself then go to the test. If you get hooked, you can move on to more advanced obedience training with your dog. If you have a puppy, you can take them to kindergarten classes as soon as they have had their first set of vaccinations.
  4. Properly socialize your dog. Let dogs socialize at their own pace. Elicit the help of friends and friends who have dogs to help you socialize a new dog or puppy.
  5. Keep your dog or cat away from certain springtime plants. Lilies, for example, are toxic to cats. If you have a dog who likes to chew on plants (many do), then keep an eye on what they are chewing. Pesticides and herbicides can make any vegetation toxic.
  6. Keep holiday treats away from your pets. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, cats, and other small animals. If you want to include your animal in all the fun, you can buy or make egg-shaped Easter treats for your dog or cat.
  7. Don’t let your dog put their heads out the car window, and secure your dog with a harness or pet seat belt. Cats being transported should be put in a proper carrier.
  8. When spring cleaning, keep all cleaning products out of your pets’ way and read the label. Bear in mind; you may have to move your pets to another room. This includes pocket pets, caged pets, etc.
  9. Keep an eye on your pets for seasonal allergies. If the new puppy or kitten you bought last fall starts sneezing, they may have a pollen allergy, and you should contact your vet.
  10. Chip and tag your dog or cat. Yes, even indoor cats. Spring is a time when pets are more likely to wander off. Chips cannot be removed by the animal or anyone else, but tags are easier to read, so it is a good idea to use both.
  11. Make sure you and your children can read your pet’s body language. Unless it’s required (for example if Fido got all smelly), avoid petting or handling a dog which is sleeping, eating, barking, growling or scared. The same goes for cats. And remember—the signals for “pet my belly” and “play with me” are very close together in cats. Mistaking the latter for the former can get you accidentally scratched. Also, learn your cat’s signals for when they want you to stop petting them, such as flattening ears or flipping the tail. If a cat wants to walk away while being petted, let them.
  12. Consider getting liability insurance for your pet, so you are covered if they attack somebody and the person sues you.
prevent animal attacks from dog in park
A woman was playing with a dog in a park when he suddenly begins growling, and she tries to prevent the dog from attacking her.

For the public

Animal attacks happen. They are not always dogs—attempting to catch somebody else’s escaped feline has gotten several people scratched. Here are some ways to prevent animal attacks.

  1. Never approach or pet a dog without checking with the owner first. The dog may not be friendly (or it may be a service dog – not all service dogs wear vests – and you could be endangering the handler). Drill your children on this too – they should not approach a strange dog without permission.
  2. If you do pet a strange dog, let it sniff you first. Licking is common and okay. Nipping is never okay. Stop petting a dog immediately that nips, even if it’s a young puppy.
  3. If a dog approaches you, stay still and let it sniff you. Never run from a dog. If you don’t want to interact with the dog, say “No” or “Go home” and avoid eye contact, which might be taken as either a challenge or an encouragement.
  4. If knocked over by a dog, curl up and protect your ears and neck with your hands.
  5. If attacked, put any object you can between you and the dog, so it bites the object instead.
  6. If you find a lost cat or small dog, do not try to pick it up and carry it home. Many pets will object to this treatment and may scratch you. The pet may also then run into traffic or the like and get hurt or killed. Only people who know how to read canine and feline body language should try to coax a lost animal to them to check the tags.
  7. If you are sharing a trail with horseback riders, remember horses are large animals that can be unpredictable. Never run towards or chase a horse and avoid making loud noises or sudden motions. Do not approach a horse from behind. If you do come up behind a horse on the trail, call out, so both the horse and rider are aware of you and wait for permission from the rider to pass. Always yield to horses, do not hide from them, and do not let your dog run towards or chase a horse. Being kicked by a horse can cause severe injury or death.

If a dog bites you, find out the animal’s rabies vaccination status from the owner. You should seek medical attention if the wound is deep or bleeding, and go to the ER if you have a severe injury, don’t know if the dog was vaccinated, or have not had a tetanus booster in the last five years.

The best way to deal with animal attacks is to prevent them. However, if somebody else’s animal attacks you, you will need an excellent lawyer to help you get the compensation you need. Peter Mazzeo specializes in personal injury cases, including animal attacks. Contact us today for a free consultation.