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Don’t Leave That Dog! The Importance Of Keeping Your Dog Supervised In Public

By Sassafras Lowrey 

With more businesses opening up as we approach a bit of normalcy, you might be tempted to bring your dog with you to grab a coffee or snack. But should you? Increasingly, businesses are dog-friendly or have dog-friendly areas, which is great. However, if you’re bringing your dog along, it’s important to never leave your dog tied outside a business while you go inside. Unaccompanied dogs are susceptible to dognapping and can also be stressed out or harmed by interactions with unfamiliar people or other animals. 

Dognapping Can Happen:

It is estimated that two million dogs get stolen each year in the United States. It’s even been reported that dognapping has been on the rise because of the increased demand for pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Small dogs, purebred dogs and other dogs with a high “resale value” are particularly vulnerable to theft. “Dog flippers,” as they are called, steal dogs — particularly those seen as being more valuable and then resell them often to unsuspecting buyers. Although we see our dogs as members of the family, unfortunately, from a legal perspective, many states and jurisdictions view dognapping as a property crime. This limits the amount of police involvement in searching for a stolen dog, and makes the crime akin to stealing a TV or bicycle.

Supervise Interactions: 

Dognapping can happen in any community. It’s important to supervise your dog when out in public even if you feel like your local community is very safe. Tying your dog to a street post, for example, isn’t a good idea. A dog left tied is at an increased risk of being injured. If a leash comes untied, or your dog slips out of their collar, they may become scared and dart away. This can easily lead to your dog being lost, hit by a car or otherwise injured. 

“Dognapping can happen in any community. It’s important to supervise your dog when out in public even if you feel like your local community is very safe.”

Even if you have a dog who is social and friendly with other dogs and people, it’s important to supervise your dog’s interactions with others. Many people are allergic, scared or uncomfortable around dogs and shouldn’t have to engage with your dog while walking down the street. If you leave your dog tied up while you go into a coffee shop or store, they may attempt to approach a dog that is fearful, reactive or even aggressive to other dogs. 

Leaving your dog unattended also puts your dog at risk of being mistreated or taunted by passersby. This can happen maliciously or accidentally because, unfortunately, many people don’t know how to safely engage with dogs and may inadvertently approach or grab dogs in a way that may cause them stress or discomfort. Similarly, people may not supervise their children appropriately around unfamiliar dogs. This can lead to kids running up to your dog to hug or pull at them which can get your dog stressed or startled.

Dog on a Leash

Liability Concerns: 

None of us like to think that our dogs could be capable of harming someone, but dogs are not walking, barking stuffed animals. Any dog under the right circumstances can bite or fight if provoked. In addition to the risks to your dog’s health and wellbeing, your dog can also pose a risk to others. If you leave your dog unattended, they can become spooked and upset which can lead to your dog lunging, snapping at, or even biting a person or other animal. In that situation, you would be liable for the injury your dog caused without having any way of knowing if your dog had been provoked. Additionally, your dog could be subjected to an investigation by your local animal control which could — in the most serious of cases, if a bite occurs — result in your dog being euthanized. Leaving your dog alone is not a risk worth taking to get that cup of coffee! 

Alternative Options:

If you are out with your dog and have some errands to run, make sure that your dog will be able to join you inside the establishment, or that the locations have dog-friendly patios or windows. Alternatively, a good option is to coordinate schedules with a trustworthy friend or family member who you can leave your dog with while you go into a business. They can also go in for you while you stay outside to supervise and engage with your dog. 

“If you are out with your dog and have some errands to run, make sure that your dog will be able to join you inside the establishment, or that the locations have dog-friendly patios or windows.”

For many of us, part of the joy of loving a dog is the opportunity to spend time together. If your dog is comfortable and confident around other dogs and people, bringing your dog along can make running errands more fun. Although many people choose to leave their dogs unaccompanied and tied outside of businesses, the practice is very dangerous. If you won’t be able to be with your dog the entire time you are out, it’s better and safer to instead leave your dog at home and take a walk together later.

Dog Walking on Leash

Sassafras Lowrey is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI) and an award-winning author whose books have been honored by the American Library Association, The Lambda Literary Foundation and the Dog Writers Association of America. Sassafras’ dog books include: Tricks In The City, Bedtime Stories for Rescue Dogs and Chew This Journal: An Activity Book For You And Your Dog. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com

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