Writing this particular blog makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I don’t like discussing controversial subjects. But, I would like to discuss some common pet-related actions that annoy me because they result in harm for pets. Since pets can’t speak for themselves, it becomes my duty as a veterinarian to advocate for them. So please let me address a few of my “pet” peeves. I would appreciate reading your comments. Do you share my pet peeves? Do you have a few more of your own? I’d love to hear about it!
My “pet” peeves include:
- Dogs riding unrestrained in the back of pick-up trucks. Really, there should be a law against this in our County. When the dogs fall out or are thrown out of the truck into traffic it is never pretty. Most of them die. The few that don’t die receive fractures and serious injuries to their pads and skin. I’ve had to treat many animals for such unnecessary injuries. I don’t think it is legal for passengers to ride unrestrained in the beds of trucks, so why should we allow it for animals?
- Pets riding on the laps of drivers. It is not OK to talk on your cell, text, or cuddle your dog while driving. They are all equal distractions. I don’t want my family on the road with distracted drivers. I also don’t want anyone to crash because they had to pull a barking dog back into the window (remember that scene from Marley and Me?), or because the pet stood on the electric window control and got stuck, or because the dog was thrown to the floorboard of the car under the brake pedal–just as the driver slammed on the brakes. Like children, pets should be confined to the back seat and away from the windows, or else strapped in carrier or harness while traveling in a car. Otherwise, they pose a serious distraction to the driver and can become potential projectiles during an accident.
- Dogs left chained and unattended. Any tethered, unattended dog is more likely to bite than a dog that is free-roaming and able to escape a perceived threat. For this reason, even a normally well-behaved dog that is left tied outside a store while the pet owner goes inside can pose a threat to passersby. If the dog becomes fearful, it cannot escape its tether so its only defense becomes biting. An alarming number of children are seriously injured by dog bites each year, and many of these injuries are caused by dogs left tied. And dogs who remain chained for long periods tend to be poorly socialized, bored, and territorial of the small space allowed them. I’ve even treated dogs that were accidentally strangled by their chains. It is a sad life for the dogs. And it is a public health hazard for people who come near a tethered dog. In some places, it is a crime to leave a dog tied up and not immediately visible to the owner. I wish that were true here.
- Retractable leashes. These are not leashes. They are more like zip-lines for dogs. The pet is really not under control while walking on one of these devices. I’ve cared for dogs severely injured when they zipped to the end of the line and were attacked by another dog they had set out to greet . One memorable exam left me bound like an insect in a spider web after two dogs wearing zip-lines wrapped themselves around my ankles. It was chaos in that exam room! I can only imagine what goes on when multiple dogs wearing zip-lines are walking down the sidewalks.
Thanks for letting me voice my pet peeves. I only want what is best for the pets and for public health.
Dr. Spencer practices at Bayonet Point Animal Clinic in Port Richey, FL
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