Monday, March 2, 2015

Scan The Ground And Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Last summer we were visiting a friend. Both of her small pups were running around the yard. One of them got into the shrubs bordering her yard and came running out with a gigantic steak in her mouth. It took some coaxing, and a handful of biscuits, for her to relinquish the meat. We all exhaled. Our brains were thinking the same thing. The big "what if..." You hear it on the news and read articles about people who scatter poisoned meat in their yard, dog parks and other areas frequented by dogs and their hoomans.

Today, The Dogington Post published an article that made my stomach turn. In Ormond Beach, Florida, pieces of meat and fat stuffed with ibuprofen were found scattered around a dog park. At least 2 dogs ingested the meat. How many of us have taken our pooches to the dog park without giving a second thought to what's on the ground? It's a dog park. Dozens of dogs have been there in the hours before you and dozens more will visit after you leave. Who thinks to scope out the ground before unleashing our dogs, right?

It's not just dog parks. In December of 2013 chunks of meat tainted with rat poison was found on a hiking trail at Carkeek Park in Seattle. Back in July of 2013, the San Francisco police were warning dog owners of meatballs laced with rat poison. These meatballs were discovered in various neighborhood locations. Similar situations are popping up everywhere. Dog parks. Hiking trails. Public venues. Neighborhoods. Beaches.

Unfortunately, this is happening all around us. It will continue to happen. In this day and age, no area is immune. As pet parents, we need to be on high alert and take a few precautions...

1. Scan the ground. We'd like to think our dog parks are safe and, for the most part, they are. However, it only takes a few seconds for someone to discreetly scatter a few pieces of meat on the ground. It takes a split second for your dog to ingest it. Before unleashing your dog, walk the grounds. Check areas where pieces of meat could easily be concealed.

2. Keep your eyes peeled. A few articles I've read on this topic have mentioned people seeing a suspicious individual wandering around. If you take your dog/s to the same park, or other dog friendly areas, you're familiar with the regulars. Be on the lookout for newbies or questionable activity.

3. Never take treats from strangers. For those of you with hooman kids, I'm sure, at one time or another, you've warned them not to take candy or food from strangers. This rule has been at the top of the list since I was a kid. The same holds true for the fur-kids. When a stranger approaches you or your dog and offers a treat, just say no.

4. High alert for hiking trails. Let's face it, hiking trails are difficult to scope out for tainted chunks of meat or cheese. Most people who take their dogs hiking allow them to be off leash. Dogs wander ahead and sometimes off the trail. It's important to be on high alert for any indication that your dog is about to gobble something from the ground or is in the process of chewing. If possible, remove it from their mouth and check the ground and surrounding area where they snagged it from.

5. Disgruntled neighbors. Every once in a while I'll stumble across an article about "a disgruntled neighbor" who wants to teach dog owners a lesson. They're fed up with dogs showing up in their yard or rummaging through the trash.  Or, the ones who have livestock. Neighboring dogs and other wildlife have gotten into the coops and they're pissed. Their warped solution to the problem is to leave bowls of water tainted with antifreeze or poisoned meat around the property. Don't allow your dogs to roam freely throughout the neighborhood or leave 'em unattended for any length of time.

6. Act fast. If your dog ingests a piece of meat, cheese or other food item tainted/stuffed with rat poison, ibuprofen, etc, the symptoms can be instant or occur over a period of time. Symptoms can include impaired movement, paralysis of hind limbs, muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting, rapid breathing, diarrhea, excessive drooling, excessive thirst, etc. Call your local veterinary hospital or the Pet Poison Hotline immediately. Every minute counts and it could mean the difference between life and death.

7. Speak up. When you see something, say something. Take photos. Contact your local police department and animal control. They can investigate and post warnings so other people are aware.

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