Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Another Reason to Tag Your Dog . . .

. . . well-meaning "animal lovers."

By the way, I've expressed how I feel about self-proclaimed "animal lovers" in the past, so regular readers can correctly assume that this is another rant.

Repeat after me: Creative editing, not real life.
I think people watch too much Animal Planet. People assume that every loose dog must be a homeless stray in need of rescue. And any dog that is shy, timid, or fearful must have been abused. These same people feel that any dog without a collar is obviously unloved. And for some strange reason, all animal control officers are evil and want to euthanize everything that comes through. Yes, these are the stereotypes that I deal with every day. Here are some true cases in point:

  • One Saturday night Hubby's band was playing at a biker event. The bass player's woman du jour walked in with a recently groomed Yorkshire terrier. No collar. WDJ said she just found the dog outside the bar, and since she was "an animal lover" she couldn't leave it there. Then she said she couldn't keep it and asked if anyone wanted it. A second woman popped up saying she had always wanted a Yorkie. I stepped in and said "That's somebody's dog, you can't just give it away." I told her that if she brought it to my kennel the next day -- a Sunday -- I would scan it to see if it has a microchip. If not, I would take it and try to find the owner. Both women told me to mind my "own fucking business" and the second woman walked off with the dog.

  • Atticus is a neurotic lab mix who lives along the beach. I've known him for years. His anxiety medications keep him really skinny (I have verified this with the dog's veterinarian), and his owners can't keep him from bolting out the door. I came into the office one Sunday and there were two messages from the night before. One was Atticus's owner saying that the dog had slipped his collar and was on the loose again. The other was from a woman saying that she had found an emaciated black dog and wanted me to pick it up right away. When I returned her call she told me that she'd already given the dog away because she was an animal lover and "obviously the owners were abusing it." I told her the dog had a medical condition and she needed to return the dog. She refused. It got ugly from there. The police went over and explained the situation to the animal lover using the phrases "stolen property," "petit larceny" and "misdemeanor arrest." She quickly produced the dog. Apparently she's a not-going-to-jail lover as well.

  • The stray GSD
    Last week there was a picture of a German shepherd posted all over Facebook. He had been running loose and was picked up at the National Park. The park rangers had tied him to a park bench, but the dog was becoming agitated and aggressive. There were 20 Facebook comments in less than 20 minutes from well-meaning citizens trying to send somebody to "Go get that poor dog." Fortunately, I knew the animal control officer in the area. She was on her way to my kennel but I asked her to go pick up the dog first before somebody did something stupid. (Good thing too, because the dog had already bitten one of the park rangers.) I saw the dog. He was thin, but very clean. He also had freshly clipped nails. He belonged to somebody, yet all these well meaning animal lovers were willing to take the dog without giving his owner a chance to find him.

  • Even police officers aren't exempt from bonehead "animal lover" mentality. My first year on the job I was sent to a crash scene. A woman was on her way to the hospital. She had a small dog in the car and no emergency contact info. As I showed up, one of the police officers was handing the dog to a passerby. Both the police officer and this random woman thought it would be better for the dog to stay with her then in my "cold dark kennel." I had to insist that they give me the dog. I asked the police officer if he was giving the passerby the victim's purse and other personal property for safekeeping as well. He finally got it (legally, dogs are property) and I took the dog. Good thing I was insistent! Several hours later I got a frantic call from the hospital. The dog in my kennel was diabetic and needed medicine right away or it would die. The owner gave me the name of her vet and I transported the dog for treatment and boarding until the owner was released. So what would have happened if the dog had died under the stranger's care? Who do you think would have been sued? (Hint: Who has the deeper pockets?)

There are hundreds of cute tags out
there. Pick one. USE IT!
Things would have been a lot easier if all of the dogs above had collars with tags. Medical alert tags would have been extremely helpful for the last dog. I'm constantly saying "Your dog should always wear a collar and tags." Still, people -- including many of my friends -- argue with me saying they don't like to hear the jingling. I recommend those people buy silicon tags. They don't make noise.

Despite all my arguments for collars and tags, I still get opposition. I'm constantly told: "I'm a good dog owner. My dog never leaves the house." Truth is, those statements aren't mutually exclusive. In just last month I've had dogs that:
  • Slipped out unnoticed during a holiday party.
  • Pushed through a gate that was left unlatched by the lawn guy.
  • Ran out a door left open by children home on winter break.
  • Dug under the fence for the very first time.
  • Knocked out a screen and jumped through the open window.
  • Were intentionally thrown outside by an angry soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.
  • And the worst story of all: A burglar broke into a house and stole all the Christmas gifts. Grinch left the jimmied door open and the dogs got out. They're still missing.
BTW, all those dogs belonged to people I would classify as "good dog owners."

Others tell me "I don't need to worry about a collar because my dog is microchipped." I've got bad news here too. Not everyone who finds a dog takes to be scanned. I have picked up numerous chipped dogs that were found and kept for weeks before Animal Control was called. Meanwhile, frantic owners had been calling daily. 

Also, most vets do not scan every animal that comes in. If you say you found the animal, they will scan it. Or if you're crazy like me, and have the vet scan to make sure the microchip is still working, they will do it just to make you shut up. But unless you say otherwise, the vet is going to assume the dog you brought in is yours and not automatically scan it. (And before you start screaming "Well they should," you need to know that scanning only shows whether or not a microchip is present. Tracing the alphanumeric code on the microchip through the various microchip companies to locate an owner is time consuming. Do you want those extra man-hours added to your vet bill? Don't lie!)

Here is my professional advice: Don't leave the safety and security of your dog to others. Don't assume that strangers will do the same thing you would. People are lazy. People are jerks. Always make things as idiot proof as possible; there are a lot of idiots out there. -- K