It’s not too often I go off and write an opinion piece, but here it goes. Let’s talk about dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are 85 million dogs living in U.S. households and an estimated 4.5 million bites per year.
According to a report by DogsBite.org, from Jan. 1, 2005 to Feb. 17, 2013, Texas led the nation in fatal dog attacks with 34 fatalities recorded during the period.
We all love our dogs. Whether we have them for companionship, personal protection or sport, they become part of the family. Most of us are responsible pet owners, but there are those owners that failed and passed a burden on for society to deal with.
This is by no means directed at responsible dog owners. As a matter of fact, responsible dog owners should be commended. There are several dog-related issues in South Texas. Three major issues are stray dogs, neglected dogs and aggressive dogs.
Many city and county administrations have struggled to find a solution. The problem is as complicated as any solution.
In discussing the issue with several authorities, the consensus on a solution to unwanted or neglected dogs seems to be three-fold – education, funding and sensible laws.
All of the problems and solutions point right to irresponsible dog owners. We’re not talking about the dog that occasionally gets loose and is found later. That can and will happen to any dog owner at some point.
There are a lot of issues or complaints – neglected dogs, including insufficient shelter, food, water, inhumane treatment and improper restraints; aggressive dogs, such as dogs that endanger people or other animals; dogs running free throughout neighborhoods and barking dogs. Those are all problems that relate to owner responsibility.
I live in a neighborhood that like most South Texas neighborhoods has dogs running free. I’ve talked with several dog owners and some believe dogs need their space. And those same folks will claim not to worry, that their dog is friendly.
Well, both of those claims are just not true. Dogs don’t pay taxes, they don’t work, they don’t put food on the table, so why must some people feel that a dog has the right to roam free?
I’ve witnessed free- roaming dogs threaten people; kill deer and other animals; cause destruction; chase cars, cyclists and people walking; cause vehicle accidents; tear up garbage and be a menace to neighborhoods. But those dogs are friendly, right?
We have domesticated dogs for three reasons – companionship, protection and work such as herding, hunting and a variety of other tasks. If your dog is running free, it’s not doing any of these things.
Dogs don’t need space to roam free. They should be kept under the owner’s control – either fenced in, leashed or kept in the home. That’s why they are domesticated. For that same reason, farmers and ranchers have fences around their domesticated horses, cattle and hogs.
No matter how friendly you think your dog is, the fact is it can bite. And when a dog is free to run, especially with other dogs, it will have a different attitude.
If a dog was a person that slept all day, didn’t work or pay taxes, relied on others for food, water and shelter, roamed the streets all night, harassed, caused bodily harm and and sometimes death to others and barked non-stop, we as a society would have that person locked up.
Pet ownership is a huge responsibility that requires a commitment for the life of the animal. Once someone makes that choice, there should be no turning back. One of the biggest problems is, people with good intentions acquire a dog, usually a puppy, and are not prepared to deal with it as it gets older and bigger.
Education should begin before someone decides to become a dog owner.
The Humane Society, American Veterinary Medical Association, Purina Farms, American Animal Association, local veterinarians and trainers and your local animal control officer are just a few sources that can help educate owners.
It’s time that all of us, including lawmakers, do something for the good of communities and the dogs.