For community organizations and local politicians, pets, traffic and crime are frequently the top neighborhood complaints.
Pet owners need to be sensitive to the non-pet-owning public. Lawns can be ruined when dogs on long leashes or unleashed dogs urinate in the middle. The high nitrogen content of urine will burn a round spot on the lawn, and once an area has a urine odor, other dogs will claim the spot. I use hedges to limit access by pets that would use my lawn as a toilet.
Every dog owner should carry bags on every walk to clean up solid waste. Not only is leaving pet waste behind rude, but also there is a public health issue with fecal parasites.
Long and retractable leashes can give dogs the freedom to harass people on the street. When passing others, always walk your dog to the outside, putting yourself between a stranger and your dog.
Dogs running free in parks can be a real nuisance, too. “Don’t worry, he’s friendly,” is not reassuring to fearful people or parents with young children. They want to see an owner in complete control of his or her pet. Elderly people or anyone with back or knee problems can easily be pushed down or tripped. They should not have to deal with off-leash dogs. Joggers also sometimes attract unwanted attention from pets. Some dogs lose interest when a runner stops, but a dominant dog may not.
Owners of known aggressive dogs must take precautions to prevent attacks on mail carriers, delivery people and children on their way to school. Neutering reduces aggression, but training is also required to minimize the risk. Low-cost neuter programs are available for people in need, and some focus on aggressive breeds. Hello Bully’s Pit Fix Plus program has spayed and neutered more than 2,500 local pit bulls.
About half of all dog bite injuries happen in the home. Of the more than 4 million bites reported per year in the U.S., approximately 2 million occur outside of the home. Children and men are more likely to be bitten. The Centers for Disease Control has information on preventing dog bites:
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog, run or make loud noises near one.
- Do not reach for a dog without letting it smell you first.
- Never play aggressively with a dog or let children play unsupervised with a dog.
- Stay calm if threatened by a dog. It is important to not make sudden moves. Avoid direct eye contact and position yourself at an angle to the dog.
Please remember that the need for pets to exercise has to be balanced with the right of the public to not be harassed by dogs.
Lawrence Gerson V.M.D. is president of the Point Breeze Organization and a veterinarian at Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly Post-Gazette column is intended to educate pet owners on general topics of interest. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you’d like addressed in Pet Points, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.
This column first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April 2016. Reprinted by permission of the author.