Spring is here, and dogs and cats are everywhere. Responsible pet guardians make good neighbors. Those with and without pets can co-exist peacefully. Let’s review some guidelines for keeping dogs and cats safe in the city.
Identification on pets is essential, and licensing is required by law. Dogs are generally safe off leash in an enclosed area on their own property. In Portland, there are parks with designated dog areas. The safest are fenced. (How many lost pet signs have you seen?)
Each dog park has its own rules and hours. Once your dog is off leash, more than ever, you are responsible. It’s tempting to chat with other dog people and forget to keep an eye out for your dog. That may make it too late to break up a potential fight. (Maybe you can predict your dog’s behavior, but you can't predict the manners of other dogs.) With a focus on socialization, dog guardians are often unaware when their dog has left what needs to be picked up. Carry extra plastic bags, and be a good neighbor by being a responsible guardian. Keep an eye on your dog.
Those with or without dogs can be good neighbors by demonstrating etiquette when encountering an unknown dog on leash. Always ask permission to pet the dog, no matter how friendly the dog appears. It’s not only good manners, it’s a safety measure. A fearful dog can be as dangerous as an aggressive dog. Safety can’t be predicted by breed; animals are individuals, too.
Outdoor pet cats exercise their wanderlust and hunting skills, even when well fed. Keep identification and a bell on your cat’s collar. Remember, cats are born hunters, and experts at stealth. Some know how to stalk prey (frequently birds) without making a sound. Outdoor felines are subject to dangers that can shorten their lifespan to a mere two years or less.
Whether or not you are a pet guardian, you can also demonstrate good citizenship by keeping an eye out for what is happening in your neighborhood. Abuse and neglect of animals does happen. Just like children, they need responsible others looking out for them. If you witness an animal being neglected or abused, phone the investigators at the Oregon Humane Society (503-285-7722.) Or go to www.oregonhumane.org, click on Services, then Investigations. Use your best judgment deciding whether to personally confront someone. If you see your neighbor’s dog leashed up on the front lawn with an empty water bowl on a hot day, maybe you can fill it yourself. Most pet guardians are responsible, and have good intentions. Assume the best of others, and they will often rise to the occasion.
Spaying and neutering. It’s probably the most critical issue in animal welfare. There simply are not enough homes for all of the cats and dogs born. The statistics are astounding. For every person in the US, 15 dogs are born and 45 cats. According to the Humane Society of the US, more than 3 million cats & dogs are euthanized in shelters annually. Not only is a spayed or neutered pet a healthier, happier pet, it is the most important choice you can make as a pet guardian. If you or your children want to see the miracle of birth, borrow or rent a nature movie.
Rescue groups abound, and before you decide to go to a breeder for your next pet, do an internet search to see if the breed you want has a rescue group. There are many great rescue groups in town, beginning with our very own Oregon Humane Society.