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Navigating Animal Safety and Protection Month

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Paws, claws & Safety Laws

A small brown dog wearing a harness and sitting nicely for a treat

Table of Contents


Introduction

October marks the arrival of National Animal Safety and Protection Month, a crucial reminder for all pet owners about the responsibility we bear towards our animal companions. This observance isn't just about our furry family members, but it extends to the entire animal kingdom, emphasizing the importance of safety and protection for all creatures.

While every creature, from birds to fish, holds a special place, for the scope of this article, our focus narrows down to the canine realm. This isn't just a topic; it's a realm we are intimately familiar with, and it’s with a sense of duty and a wealth of experience that we delve into the topic of dog safety.

The joy a pup brings as it greets you with a wagging tail and bright eyes is unparalleled. As pup parents, it's our duty to ensure that this joy remains untainted by preventable hazards. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our pups is not just a personal responsibility but a communal one, fostering a safer environment for all. In the following sections, we’ll explore the common risks pups face, preventive measures, and the collective steps we can take to make every day safer for our four-legged companions.


Why Canine Safety is Crucial

The companionship between humans and dogs dates back thousands of years, and over time, the bond has only deepened. Pups are not merely pets; they are family members, loyal companions, and at times, life-saving support systems. Ensuring their safety goes beyond a mere obligation; it's a testament to the reciprocal love and loyalty they offer us unconditionally.


I often chuckle, albeit with a hint of dread, at the striking similarities between having a dog and having a child. Before becoming a mother, I would have ardently argued against any comparison between the two. A human to a dog? It seemed like a far-fetched comparison. Yet, the arrival of my son dramatically shifted my perspective. Now, distinguishing who the bigger instigator is between him and Pebbles, is a daily puzzle. Their knack for teaming up and sneaking off into mischief is both amusing and a tad exasperating. The laughter almost overpowers my voice when reprimanding their playful antics.


The adventures of parenthood and adding Pebbles into our family quickly schooled me on the importance of ensuring my home is, firstly, child-proof and, secondly, dog-proof. Silence, lasting longer than 30 seconds, has now become a cue for a quick investigative sweep around the house.


Potential Risks Dogs Face

Dogs are curious and energetic creatures, traits that sometimes lead them into potentially dangerous situations. They may encounter risks such as:


Exposure to Harmful Substances

Dogs have a natural tendency to explore their environment with their noses and mouths, which could lead them to ingest harmful substances like certain human foods, plants, or chemicals.


Physical Hazards

The outdoors is a playground for pups, but it also hosts hazards like traffic, sharp objects, or aggressive animals. Without proper supervision and training, a simple walk could turn perilous.


Extreme Weather Conditions

Dogs are susceptible to harsh weather conditions. Extreme heat or cold can lead to serious health issues like heatstroke or frostbite.


Community Impact

A well-cared-for dog not only leads a happy and healthy life but also contributes to a safer and more harmonious community. Responsible dog ownership, which includes ensuring your pup's safety, is a reflection of a community's values and its collective commitment to the welfare of all its members, whether on two legs or four.


Ensuring the safety and well-being of dogs also reduces the likelihood of incidents that could pose risks to other animals and humans, such as bites or the spread of diseases.


The reciprocal relationship between humans and dogs is a cherished one, and ensuring the safety of our canine companions is a shared responsibility. It's a venture that enriches our community, making it a safer and more enjoyable place for everyone.


Common Risks for Dogs

Understanding the common risks that dogs face is the first step towards ensuring their safety. Here’s a breakdown of some typical hazards and how they might impact your pups:


Ingesting Toxic Substances

Dogs are curious by nature, and their exploration often leads them to taste things they shouldn’t.


Common household items can be dangerous or even lethal if ingested:

  • Foods

Certain human foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins, and xylitol (a sweetener) are toxic to dogs.

  • Plants

Some plants can be harmful to dogs, and my pup Pebbles has had a particularly perilous encounter with lilies. There seems to be an irresistible allure around the area where lilies have been planted, perhaps the scent of the bulbs entices them. One day, after having trimmed down the lilies a week prior, I found Pebbles digging fervently into the pot, intrigued by the grass sprouting courtesy of bird feed thrown in by my son. It was a close call that highlighted the need for vigilance, especially around plants like lilies. This peculiar attraction isn't unique to Pebbles; I've observed a similar fascination in my mom's and grandma's dogs too. There's something about lilies that seems almost euphoric to them, an allure that could lead to dangerous situations.

  • Chemicals

Household cleaners, antifreeze, and pesticides are extremely dangerous if ingested.


  • Foods

Certain human foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins, and xylitol (a sweetener) are toxic to dogs.

  • Plants

Some plants, including lilies, poinsettias, and azaleas, can be harmful.

  • Chemicals

Household cleaners, antifreeze, and pesticides are extremely dangerous if ingested.


Physical Hazards

The world is a playground for pups, but it also harbors physical hazards:

  • Traffic

Dogs, especially energetic pups, might dash into the road, posing a significant risk.

  • Sharp Objects

Broken glass, metal shards, or thorns can cause severe injuries.

  • Aggressive Animals

Encounters with aggressive animals can lead to serious injuries or disease transmission.


Poor Weather Conditions

Extreme weather conditions can be harsh for our canine companions

  • Heat

High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially in brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs.


  • Cold

Cold weather can cause frostbite or hypothermia, particularly in short-haired or small breeds.


Being aware of these risks enables us to create a safer environment for our pups, ensuring they remain healthy and happy members of our families.


How to Protect Your Dogs

Ensuring the safety of our pups begins at home and extends to the broader environment they interact with.


Here are key steps to create a safe haven for your canine companions:


Appropriate Shelter

Providing a comfortable and safe shelter is fundamental:

  • Indoor Comfort

Make sure your home is a comforting environment for your pup, with ample space to move around, soft bedding, and areas to retreat for some peace.

  • Outdoor Safety

If your pup spends time outdoors, ensure the area is securely fenced, free from hazards like sharp objects or toxic plants, and provides shelter from extreme weather conditions.


Dog-Proofing Your Home

Creating a safe indoor environment requires some thoughtful adjustments:

  • Remove Hazards

Keep toxic foods, chemicals, and small objects that can be choked on, out of paw’s reach.

  • Secure Trash Bins

Dogs are notorious for rummaging through trash; secure bins will keep them away from harmful discarded items.


Training

Training is a pivotal aspect of a pup's safety, and it's a topic I hold close to heart. The sooner the training begins, the better; however, it's never too late to teach a dog new behaviors, regardless of their age. This rings especially true for those who choose the noble path of adopting a rescue dog. While the adage goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," my experience—and that of many dog trainers—begs to differ. In fact, older dogs often prove to be more focused, making the training process a smoother sail.

  • Basic Obedience

Teaching basic commands like "stay," "come," and "leave it" can prove invaluable in keeping your pup out of harm's way. These commands form the bedrock of good behavior and safety consciousness for dogs.

  • Emergency Commands

Training your pup on emergency commands can be life-saving. For instance, a well-timed “stop” can prevent them from running into traffic. It's a layer of protection that goes beyond the leash, providing a safety net in unpredictable situations.


Investing time in training, be it with a puppy or an older rescue, yields a rewarding bond and a safer environment for your canine companion. It's a testament to the transformative power of patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement.


Special Considerations for Different Dog Breeds

Each dog breed comes with its unique set of characteristics and potential health concerns. Tailoring your safety measures to suit the specific needs of your pup's breed can significantly enhance their well-being and prevent breed-specific issues. It's also worth noting that every dog, regardless of breed, has the potential to be gentle, loving, and well-behaved when provided with the right environment, training, and care. There are no bad dogs, only circumstances that may lead to behavioral issues. Being proactive in understanding and catering to your dog’s specific needs is a step towards fostering a safe and nurturing home for them.


Size and Build

  • Small Breeds

Small breeds like Chihuahuas or Pomeranians are more susceptible to cold and may require extra warmth during winter months. They also can be prone to injuries due to their delicate build.

  • Large Breeds

Larger breeds like Great Danes or Labradors might face joint issues and are often at risk for conditions like hip dysplasia. Ensuring they have a comfortable place to rest and not over-exercising them can help in maintaining their joint health.


Coat Type

  • Short-Haired Breeds

Short-haired breeds might need extra protection in cold weather, like a doggy sweater or a heated bed.

  • Long-Haired Breeds

Long-haired breeds require regular grooming to prevent matting, which can lead to skin infections.


Breed-Specific Health Concerns

Being aware of and proactive about breed-specific health concerns can lead to early detection and management:

  • Brachycephalic Breeds

Breeds with flat faces like Bulldogs or Pugs are prone to breathing issues and can struggle in extreme heat. Keeping them in a cool, well-ventilated area during hot days is crucial.

  • High-Energy Breeds

High-energy breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds require ample exercise to keep them healthy and to prevent behavioral issues stemming from boredom or pent-up energy.


Understanding your pup’s breed-specific needs and adjusting your safety measures accordingly will go a long way in ensuring a happy and healthy life for your furry companion.


Community Responsibility

The well-being of dogs is a shared responsibility that extends beyond individual dog owners to the community at large. A collective effort can significantly improve the safety and quality of life for all dogs.


Encouraging Reporting of Mistreatment

  • Awareness

Raise awareness within your community about the importance of reporting any observed mistreatment of dogs.

  • Local Authorities

Familiarize yourself and your neighbors with the local authorities or organizations to contact when witnessing animal mistreatment. In British Columbia, Canada, you can report animal abuse, cruelty, or neglect to the BC SPCA Animal Helpline. Here are the details:

  • Phone Number: 1-855-622-7722¹²³

  • Operating Hours: Open 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days per week¹²³ (closed on statutory holidays except for wildlife calls in the South Vancouver Island Region (Wild ARC) from 8 to 4:30 p.m¹²³)

In case of an animal emergency outside of these hours, contact your local police department, RCMP, or the Conservation Officer Service (RAPP)¹². Your actions could help save an animal, and you may also be protecting children or adults at risk of being harmed².


Supporting Local Shelters and Rescues

  • Adoption

Promote adoption from local shelters and rescues, helping to provide loving homes for dogs in need.

  • Donations

Contributing donations, whether monetary or in-kind, can greatly assist shelters in providing care for dogs awaiting adoption.


Promoting Responsible Dog Ownership

  • Education

Advocate for education on responsible dog ownership, covering topics like proper nutrition, exercise, grooming, and training.

  • Community Events

Organize or participate in community events promoting dog safety, like training workshops, vaccination clinics, or pet-friendly gatherings.


Fostering a Pet-Friendly Community

  • Pet-Friendly Spaces

Advocate for pet-friendly spaces within your community, ensuring dogs have safe areas to play and socialize.

  • Respectful Interaction

Educate others on respectful interaction with dogs, emphasizing the importance of asking for permission before approaching someone’s dog, and understanding dog body language.

By fostering a compassionate and informed community, we contribute to creating a safer and more enriching environment for dogs and their human companions alike.


Conclusion

National Animal Safety and Protection Month serves as a reminder of the collective responsibility we hold towards ensuring the safety and well-being of our canine companions. By understanding the risks they face, adapting our homes, training our pups, and fostering a pet-friendly community, we take significant strides towards creating a safer, happier world for our dogs. Your proactive steps today, no matter how small, contribute to a larger impact in promoting animal safety and protection.


Additional Resources

Besides the knowledge shared in this article, numerous resources are available for those looking to delve deeper into ensuring the safety and protection of dogs.


Below is a curated list of resources, from recommended products to local shelters and rescue groups in British Columbia and Canada: