We are each responsible for ensuring that the animals we share our lives with are kept safe from harm. Thankfully, there is much we can do to minimize the risk. Being a responsible pet owner involves understanding and meeting the needs of your pets, and ensuring that they are not placed in situations that will leave them vulnerable to abuse or unintentional injury. Below are the Ontario SPCA's top tips to help keep your pets safe.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Cats, short-coated dogs and puppies are particularly vulnerable in cold temperatures or inclement weather. Keep cats indoors and protect your dogs from frostbite or hypothermia by taking them outside for short periods during cold weather. Consider slipping your short-coated dog or puppy into a comfortable dog sweater or coat as an extra layer of warmth. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. As well, when bathing your dog in winter months, ensure he is completely dry before taking him outside. While the Ontario SPCA strongly recommends bringing your dog indoors, dogs that live outside require as a minimum a dry, draft-free doghouse soundly built of weatherproof materials with the door facing away from prevailing winds. It should be elevated and insulated, with a door flap and bedding of straw or wood shavings. To learn how to build an "Ideal Doghouse for Ontario's Outdoor Dogs," click here. Conversely, pets left outdoors on hot summer days can also be in serious danger. Dogs should only be left outdoors for short periods, should have sufficient water and a cool, sheltered place out of direct sun. Walking early morning or evening when it is cooler is advisable.
- Provide an adequate supply of food and water. Pets need nutritious food and a constant supply of fresh drinking water each day. Be aware that water and nutritional needs will vary with temperature, age, exercise levels and the health of your pets.
- Not a wise practice to leave a pet in a parked car. Even cracked windows won't protect your pets from overheating during hot summer days. For example, a dog's normal body temperature is 39°C and a temperature of 41°C can be withstood only for a very short time before irreparable brain damage or death can occur.Similarly, in winter cars hold in the cold, acting like refrigerators, which could cause your dog to freeze to death.
- Supervise children around your pets. Children can easily terrorize pets with their quick and jerky movements, high-pitched squeals, and general roughness - particularly animals that have not been socialized with children in their early development. Always supervise children around your pets to ensure both parties' safety; separate pets and children when needed; always ensure your pet has a choice to leave the situation if he's uncomfortable; and teach children how to behave appropriately around pets (allowing pets to approach them, moving slowly, being gentle etc.).
- Meet your pets' physical and mental needs. Animals whose physical and mental needs aren't met typically exhibit behavioral problems because of boredom and excess energy. Dogs, for example, typically benefit from a minimum of two walks a day, some type of training (whether its obedience, tricks or agility), and other mentally stimulating activities such as being fed meals in a kong or playing "find" it with hidden toys or treats.
- Report suspected animal abuse. To report suspected animal abuse call the Ontario SPCA at 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 327, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Branch, affiliated Humane Society or police.