A colleague lost his dog recently when it jumped his fence. After a harrowing day for both owner and dog, that ended with the dog being hit by a car and breaking a leg, everything is working out okay. However, there are a few lessons all dog owners can learn from his ordeal.
1. TAG YOUR DOG
I'm going to discard my calm and collected professional demeanor for a moment, and say that every time I see a dog without any sort of identifying tag on its collar, I want to strangle its owner until their eyes pop out of their head. A personalized dog tag with your phone number on it costs FIVE LOUSY DOLLARS at PetCo. There is NO excuse not to have one. If your dog doesn't have one on it right now, you're being a bad owner. Go out now and get one, no excuses. Being microchipped is not enough - that will get your dog to you if it is picked up by Animal Control or taken to a vet, but if your dog has a tag with your contact information on it, it is far more likely to make it back to you just from a friendly stranger. And every day your dog is loose free is another day to get hurt or stolen.
Now, my friend knew this, and had a tag for his dog. But his dog had a "normal collar" and a "training collar." The normal collar had a tag, the training collar didn't. (And the chip in the dog had outdated information about a previous owner.) And my friend had to rush to work after a training session and didn't switch the collar. Guess when his dog decided to run away? Which brings me to my second point.
2. ALWAYS BE PREPARED FOR YOUR DOG TO RUN AWAY
I see people without tags on their dogs, and they'll tell me, "We put one on him when we go out." Guess what? Your dog will not run away when you expect her to. If there is a time that you do not have a tag on your dog, that is when she will run away. It does not matter that you closed the gate or left her inside. A meter man will open the gate while you are gone. Maybe your house will be robbed and the burglar leaves the door open. You cannot control the world - the unexpected WILL happen. Be prepared. Have the tag on your dog. Have current pictures of your dog you can use on fliers. Be prepared!
3. CHECK THE SHELTER EVERY DAY
If your dog is hit by a car and injured and taken to a city or county animal shelter, do you know how much time you have? Most will euthanize your dog within twenty-four hours if it is injured. Think about that. Let's say your dog gets loose and is running free somewhere. You call the shelter, but it hasn't been picked up and so they don't have it. Then, the next day, he gets hit by a car, is injured, and taken to the shelter. Unless you think to call again, even though you just called yesterday, they will euthanize him within the day.
This is sadly just a reality of the restrictions animal shelters work under. Money spent to treat a single injured animal could be used to house and feed dozens of others. I wish forty-eight hours was at least the standard, and in some places maybe it is, but you cannot count on that.
On top of that, my friend almost didn't find out his dog was at the shelter even when he did call - they had a policy of requiring a person to come down to identify a dog. Luckily, he was able to get someone on the phone who wasn't a completely jaded bureaucrat and recognized his description of his dog, but it was a VERY close call.
Sorry to use scare tactics, but it is a scary thing. Hopefully, your dog will never get loose and run away. But a little forethought and a little knowledge about your city's animal policies can go a long way.
(My friend's dog was found on the side of the road by an unidentified woman who drove it to multiple vets trying to find someone to care for it before finally taking it to the shelter and never left her name. After my friend got his dog back, he and his vet managed to find a specialist who could do surgery to repair the leg, and the dog is resting and healing nicely.)