Last year when we managed to explain to a court that a dog that bit a lady when he was tied up outside a supermarket did not constitute a danger to public safety (we think she accidentally backed him to the end of his lead and then stood on his foot when he couldn’t get out of her way) I Facebooked a plea to people not to leave their dogs tied up outside shops, schools or anywhere else alone, and it sparked some debate. There seems to be a feeling that whilst it might not be the safest option it may be the least-worst in some circumstances. I thought it was time to look at some of the issues raised.
Safety of the dog is the highest priority and there are people who will take your dog if they can.
Dognapping is not common but probably under-reported, as a condition of getting your dog back is not to tell anyone, especially the police.
Dogs are stolen just to be sold. They are easily portable and if they are rare or pretty will have kerb-appeal (that’s ‘being stolen from the kerb’-appeal). This is much more common than ransoming, and you have little chance of getting your dog back. Many dogs disappear every day and can be gone in thirty seconds or less.
Other idiots take things they like the look of. This could be just to keep your dog for themselves as a pet, or to use them to breed. Again, prettier or rare breeds may be more vulnerable, but any can be taken. Every dog is pretty to someone.
Taking your pet for ‘bait’ can also happen to any dog. There are morons who fight dogs together and they ‘train’ their dogs by throwing pets to them. Smaller dogs are favoured because they don’t want their own dog hurt, but these sick individuals think nothing of mutilating a larger dog so that it doesn’t have a chance in a fight (they take cats too). Your dog will be killed by being ripped apart, by which time death is probably a blessed release for them.
Being microchipped won’t necessarily save your dog because thieves simply remove the chip using a razor blade (but you should microchip AND KEEP YOUR DETAILS UP TO DATE in case they stray).
There is a section of society who are simply moronic. They may take your dog away as a prank and later let him go just to wander (maybe into traffic).
Even if your dog is not taken, there is the possibility that they may slip their collar or unravel their lead and simply wander off, maybe from fear or when excited by a passing cat or squirrel.
On Dog and People safety… All … Many… Some… People are idiots. Some think it is acceptable to approach a dog that is tied up alone, thinking it will enjoy the experience. Many dogs do not. Being tied up alone outside a shop or a school can be an incredibly stressful experience for a pet, and being approached by a stranger can make them defensive. I’ve seen as court cases many lovely dogs that have given a defensive bite when tied up alone. Only last week I saw a GSD tied to a post in town. When a random ordinary-looking bloke approached her she roared and lunged at him. She missed – it was a warning to leave her alone. AND HE DIDN’T! He went back with his hand out-stretched to pat her again! Luckily at that point her owner came out to see what the commotion was and stopped him. There but for good fortune was a court case that could have resulted in her death. Do you think you know your dog and that she would never harm someone when she’s tied up? Think again. You don’t know what they might do to her. Pat her, stroke her, hug her close, or accidentally tread on her foot… scared dogs are unpredictable.
But why do we take dogs shopping only to tie them up outside? Well, for some people it is an opportunity to take their dog for a walk, maybe their only opportunity in a busy schedule to kill two birds with one stone. For other people their dogs are so stressed when left home alone they feel it is the lesser of the two evils to take them along. Nobody intends to get their dog into trouble.
So what can we do to keep everyone safe? Well, the most obvious answer is not to take your dog to the shops if you don’t feel you absolutely must; take them for a separate walk (it’ll do you good too!) And if you think they suffer from separation distress when left home-alone, think how they must be suffering when left tide-up-alone outside a shop. Rather than tie-up your dog…
Go shopping with a dog-buddy. There are other people in your position, seek them out; maybe place an advert on the shop noticeboard, ask at your dog training class, your veterinary surgery or use FaceTwit to ask locally. Arrange to walk to the shops together or to meet outside. You hold their pet whilst they go in and they can hold yours later. This should be very easy for the school-run; you can’t be the only mum who takes her dog along.
Drop your pet with a walker or crèche whilst you do your shop. There are a great many responsible people who can help you look after your pet, rather than leaving him outside a shop. I’ve never yet met a dog-walker or day-care who do it for the money, because it pays a pittance. They do it for the love of dogs. Again, seek them out and they will be happy to help.
What can the rest of us do to help?
If you see a dog tied up alone, stand nearby. The owner is likely not far away and won’t be long. Stand guard until they return, protecting the poor dog from people (or maybe people from their own misplaced kindness). Don’t be afraid to say to idiots other people, ‘please don’t touch him, he’s a bit stressed at the moment’ (at least you’ll be a witness for the dog if an idiot is determined to get bitten).
Do not approach a tied-up dog, and definitely don’t let your children reach out to one. They might be just about coping and you might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Having the best of intentions won’t stop them biting you if they feel threatened, however misplaced their perception. It doesn’t matter how cuddly they look.
If you are a professional dog-walker or day-care, is there a way you can offer a service for this kind of care? A drop-in or walk ‘whilst you pop to the shops’ or maybe a short-term dog-sit in their own home? Advertise it if you can. It could generate some bigger business too.
If you are not a professional can you dog-sit for a friend or neighbour?
If you are a shopkeeper, how about a sign covering your dog-tying post that says, ‘Please do not touch dogs left here, CCTV is watching’ and a big picture of a friendly face beaming down. And how about placing the post within sight of the interior of the shop if you can?
I know I haven’t covered all the bases, but with a little planning, forethought and help we can protect all our dogs a little better if we try.
(no dogs were left tied up alone outside a shop for the photographs in this article – Ted just sat there slightly bemused for a minute whilst I took them)