Spring Safety Tips

     Spring is finally here and everyone is anxious to play outside, especially our four-legged friends. As we enjoy the sunshine, it’s important to keep an eye out for the dangers that lurk in the shadows. Many common spring and summer time pet ailments can be easily prevented with little effort.
     Though it is much safer to keep cats indoors and away from traffic, predators, and poisons, many cats will insist upon going outside and escape despite the best efforts of the owner. It is vital to keep identification on cats, whether it be a collar (break-away, of course) with a tag or a microchip. Or, better yet, both. Dogs need identification as well, in the form of a collar and tags and/or microchip in case they escape the yard or their leash. Every year, a huge number of stray animals end up in shelters and are never reclaimed. If these animals had been identifiable, they could have been quickly returned to their owners.
     Other animals of the pest variety are starting to prowl about, too, and humans may be trying to keep their presence to a minimum. Keep an eye out for rodent poisons- cats and dogs who hunt can easily be poisoned themselves by consuming a mouse that has just ingested poison. Insecticides also pose a risk to pets. If you plan on spraying for bugs, be sure to use a pet friendly product or arrange to remove your pet from the area for at least as long as the manufacturer recommends.
     The flowers are starting to bloom and people are starting to groom their yards. Be cautious about fertilizers and lawn treatments as these can be hazardous to pets. Even if the animal does not eat the grass from this area, they can still ingest the chemicals by licking it off of their paws or fur. Some plants, while very pretty, are poisonous for animals to consume. Lilies, rhododendrons, azaleas, and aloe are but a few that make up the dangerous plant list. For a complete list, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association or ASPCA websites and search “poison plants.”
     As we break out the sunscreen and lather it onto our noses and arms, we need to remember that our furry companions can succumb to sunburn as well. The most vulnerable to this ailment are those with very light or very short fur. Pink ears and the tops of noses burn quickly in direct sunlight. Talk with your veterinarian about safe sunscreens if you plan on spending the day out with your four-legged friend. Always remember to provide a shady area into which your pet can retreat during time in the yard.
     Many dogs enjoy a good swim and around here, there are plenty of places to indulge. Be cautious, this time of year especially, about the fast moving, high waters caused by snowmelt. These waters can be freezing cold and difficult to escape, even for the most agile of canine swimmers. This not only applies to rivers, but to irrigation ditches and canals as well. If you are not sure of the depth or speed of the water, it is safer to avoid it altogether.
     For many of us, springtime means cleaning the house. Use caution with household cleansers, as many are hazardous to pets’ health. Lysol, for example, is very toxic to cats. Be sure to read the labels of any products that you use and be prepared to switch cleaners or remove the pet from the area until it is safe for them to return. Remember, pets do not have to directly ingest a substance- they can be affected just from licking it off of their paws and fur.
     With rising summer time temperatures, it is important to remember that animals need access to fresh water at all times while playing outside. If you hike with your dog, remember to take along enough water for him, too. Keep in mind that hot pavement and sidewalks can be painful for bare paws. Cars heat up quickly in the sun, so never leave your animal in a parked car, even with the windows cracked. It takes only minutes for an animal to succumb to heat stroke.
     Arm yourself with information- keep your veterinarian’s phone number and emergency number with you, just in case. If you leave your pets with a sitter or at a boarding facility, be sure to leave all of your contact information, as well as your veterinarians’ information, with the person watching your animals. Talk with your vet about being current on vaccinations and parasite prevention. Have a safe and happy summer with your best friend!

Animals At Large

Leash = Safe = Happy!

How do pets with homes end up at Stafford Animal Shelter? Any loose pet is at risk of being in an accident – or causing one – and being a nuisance in the community. For this reason dogs are not allowed off leash except in designated dog park areas in the City of Livingston and fines may be levied for failure to restrain.

However, contrary to common belief, animal control officers do not pick up any loose dog or cat they come across. They don’t have the resources to “catch” or “arrest” the many pets at large and their role is limited to responding to citizens’ complaints or removing pets from harm’s way. Their function is to protect public health and safety, minimize human/animal conflicts, promote responsible pet ownership and humane animal treatment, and respond to animals in danger.

While reclaiming pets brought to the Shelter may be inconvenient, surely it’s preferable to them being injured or killed while at large. Every time a pet is unrestrained the life and death roulette begins: is this the time they are in – or cause – an accident? For instance, statistically ‘outdoor’ cats live half as long as cats kept indoors (and they are at risk not just from accidents, but from diseases and other animals.) Local animal control officers pick up an average of three dead pets a week from Livingston streets and there are even more in Park County. While it’s tragic when an animal is hurt, many don’t consider the greater tragedy of people killed avoiding hitting roaming pets.

Another factor that few acknowledge is that, while our pets may behave well at home, we neither know nor see what they do when they roam – whether getting into garbage cans, defecating on public walkways and private property, conflict with other pets or wildlife, creating traffic hazards, or threatening a person – pets’ behavior away from home is often quite different, and problematic, compared to their behavior at home. Unfortunately, people are often embarrassed that their animals are at large or a nuisance and automatically deflect the blame onto someone else. 

A majority of pets are brought into the Shelter not by animal control officers but citizens – sanctioned by law to do so – concerned about an at-large animal’s safety or as a last resort with nuisance or abandoned animals. If the animal has a collar, current identification chip or tags then the owners can be immediately notified. If not, the Shelter has to rely on owners contacting the Shelter and identify their pet. Tragically, few look for their missing cats; 10% of the cats brought in as strays were reclaimed last year compared to 80% of the stray dogs being reclaimed.

Another misconception about reclaiming a pet is that Stafford Animal Shelter sets the fees. Reclaim fees are set by the City and County and the Shelter only receives a percentage of these fees. The sooner a pet is reclaimed, the less the boarding fee will be. If an animal is brought in from the City of Livingston, it is $15 to pick up a pet plus $10 per day and the Park County fees are $16.50 per day plus boarding fees.

By law, an animal becomes the property of the Shelter within five days so they can be adopted rather than housed indefinitely. If a stray isn’t reclaimed early on, it can be readopted but the Shelter has to comply with minimum legal requirements including the owner getting the pet’s rabies shot from a veterinarian, landlord permission if renting, and any regional laws capping the number of pets per household. The only reason a pet would be euthanized is if they are a definite danger to the community or suffering from an untreatable illness. Stafford Animal Shelter does not euthanize for length of stay; breed; disability; age; expensive medical needs; dog, cat or livestock aggression; or even overcrowded conditions.

Did you know that the dog and cat licensing fees in the City of Livingston are crucial in funding an Animal Control Officer position as well as supporting the volunteer-based low-income spay/neuter and immunization clinics and vouchers in Livingston? The primary reason for licensing is the ability to notify owners as soon as possible of lost pets and secondarily as documented proof of current rabies shots (if the animal is in a confrontation it avoids expensive isolation as well as an untreatable disease.) Additionally, having a cap on the number of pets per household and higher fees for unspayed or neutered pets (equivalent to a business license since the person is in the business of breeding pets) gives the City the ability to respond to nuisance and abandoned animal complaints and hoarding situations.

Unfortunately, there are no such pet laws in the County which leads to a number of unresolved – and increasing – problems. Allowed to have unlimited pets, hoarders frequently move to the County and create expensive, inhumane public health and safety problems. Without basic pet laws, incidents of nuisance animals, breeding cat colonies and animals suffering in inhumane conditions or abandoned escalate unchecked. Problematically, without an animal-related income stream from licensing, the County has no budget to fund a dedicated Animal Control Officer to respond to these problems.

If you live in Park or Sweetgrass County, please talk to your commissioners about the importance of basic licensing requirements and the ensuing benefits of a funded Animal Control Officer able to enforce nuisance, breeding colony, and inhumane animal situations. 

To prevent pets from being brought to the Shelter: neuter or spay, assure they always have identification tags or chips, and keep them safely contained so that their – and the public’s – wellbeing is not compromised.

To report lost or found pets, call 222-2111 and leave a detailed message or email staffordshelter@imt.net. Messages are checked frequently. Come in to identify or pick up a lost pet during business hours Tuesday – Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at 3 Business Park Road East of Livingston. Lost pet photos are posted for five days on the Lost/Found Pets Page and when animals are up for adoption, they will be posted on the Adopt Me! page. Call City of Livingston Animal Control dispatch at 222-1142 or in Park County 222-4172