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Beyond the Garden Gate

Author: Andrea Obey | Date: April 12, 2013

It’s a beautiful, breezy spring day.  The dogs have a bigger case of cabin fever than you do and so you decide to let them out in the backyard to run around, play, and smell every intriguing scent being carried by the wind while you are inside catching up on work, cooking, laundry, or returning emails.  That same fragrant wind blows open the garden gate and the dogs trot out, following their noses to wherever the scent takes them.  They wander into the street and one gets hit by a car.

This story is exactly what happened the other day at the animal hospital where I work, and it’s all too familiar.  Luckily, this little girl I’ve mentioned was okay.  She got pretty banged up but after hours of x-rays, exams, tests and a large unexpected expense, it seems she will be fine.  She was a trooper and is a precious little dog.  The owner was terribly upset and slightly beating himself up for leaving them unattended.  The wind was so strong here the other day that the gate blew open when it never had before.  I felt terrible for him and unfortunately, he learned a lesson the hard way.

So far this year, we’ve seen approximately three dogs that have been hit by a car at an average-sized animal hospital.

I can’t imagine what an emergency animal hospital experiences.  It’s so heartbreaking and mostly avoidable. In the nearly two years that I’ve worked at an animal hospital, I’m incredibly surprised at how many dogs I’ve seen that have been hit by cars.  The emotional trauma to the driver of the car and the owners is terrible.  Obviously, this is more predominant in urban/suburban environments but even if you are in a rural area, please keep this information in mind.

I don’t want to make you a paranoid pet owner, but I really want to express the absolute importance of not leaving your dog unattended when they are outside. All of these loving pet parents never thought it could happen to them, but it did.  The last half of 2012 I saw at least a dozen dogs that were hit by cars and about half of them did not survive.

Here are some of the common scenarios that occurred:

-Gates to yards left/blew open.  This includes dog parks, tennis courts, etc.
-Guests or family members approaching and dog runs out to greet them.
-Other people in home – especially children and teens – leave doors open.  This also coincides with the first point.  A maintenance person left a gate to a yard open.
-Slip out of collar; equipment breaks.

Accidents happen, of course, but here are some tips to help you greatly decrease these risks:

-Never leave your dog unattended while outside!  I also do not recommend leaving dogs with children under the age of 18 or 16, if they are very responsible young adults.
-Triple check all gates that give access to yards, courtyards, hallways in buildings.  Also check for holes or space under fences where a pup can slip out.
-Teach a solid recall.
-Teach a “go to place”.  If guests are coming, teach your dog to lie or sit in a safe place in the home until released when the door is safely closed (Not sure how to teach these things? AnimalSense can help you!)
-Inspect all equipment regularly.  I’ve seen leashes break and collars too loose.

The weather is getting nicer here in the Midwest and how awesome is it to let your dog run around outside in the fresh air and do dog things?  It’s pretty darn awesome!  Watching them play, sniff interesting things, or take a snooze in the sun really stirs up a happy feeling.  So let them hang out in the spring and summer air safely.


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