Thursday, March 10, 2011

Being Responsible for Your Pet

When we moved to a small town, we immediately built a fence around the house so our dogs had a place to run without disturbing others and without worrying about other dogs and assorted critters getting into the yard. To me, it was just what a responsible pet owner does - you keep your pet in your yard.

In this town, however, I didn't realize that dogs were such a huge issue. It seemed that many people had dogs, however, they were allowed to roam all over town and do whatever they wanted. Many people were fed up with this, particularly with some of the large dogs who would not be described as friendly. One older lady was going for a walk and was cornered by one loose dog. She was rescued by a local storeowner who chased the dog away. There was another dog - a big german shepherd - who was not friendly, chased cars and people, and lives right next to the school. They found evidence of her wandering on the school grounds and chasing little kids. The real fear came when she had pups and became even more aggressive...right next to the school.

Many town people were complaining. There was a bylaw about the dogs but no one seemed to be doing anything to enforce it...we couldn't get past the town secretary who kept telling us it was our responsibility to contact the dog owner and deal with it (even though the bylaw said different). In the end, a group of us got together and went to the next Town Council meeting to demand that something be done. And it was...we not only got the Council to begin enforcing the bylaw, but we got them to amend it to say we could use a picture as evidence of a dog on the loose in town and we got them to up the fine from $15 to $500.

Amazing how fast money talks. Overnight, all the lax pet owners immediately found ways to keep their dogs in their yards.

You know, the sad part of all this was that people were shooing the dogs and aiming their cars at the ones on the road, but it was never the fault of the animal. It was the fault of the owners. One in particular had a beautiful, well tempered little cross breed who was always allowed to run free and usually hung out on the road. I don't know how many times she was almost hit by car. She was always left outside. No one ever paid any attention to her. And all this little pooch wanted was some love. She would pee whenever she saw me because she was so excited and knew that she would get a nice belly rub and lots of affection. One of the councillors and I used to plot how we could find her a good home, kidnap her from the road and take her to a loving place. We even went so far as to discreetly speak to people from nearby towns to see if they wanted this sweet little dog.

In the end we do not have a problem with dogs. There is a lot of bitching and grumping about the new bylaw, but the bottom line is if you have a pet you need to take responsibility for it. That means caring for it, giving it affection, taking it to the vet and ensuring that your pet stays on your property for the safety of others and the dog's own safety.