How Can I Catch That Loose Dog?

September 25th, 2012
Posted by | Posted in Dog behavior, Tips 878 views

I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re driving down the street when you see a dog running loose. You look around; there is no potential owner jogging along behind or standing outside her front gate scanning the horizon for her escaped pooch. What should you do?

Some particularly dog-savvy people with available time might try to sweet talk the dog into coming to them or hopping into their car. Or, alternatively, trying to steer the errant dog into a fenced yard and closing the gate behind it.

Frequently, though, a lost dog — or a street-smart one who is on a mission of some kind — will resist all amateur efforts to catch him. And a dog who panics or speeds up to escape capture is at a higher risk of getting hit by a car than one who is just speculatively nosing around town.

It’s best in most cases to summon the experts: your local animal control officers. These seasoned professionals have a bag full of dog-catching tricks and can usually get the job done without accidentally scaring the dog into greater harm’s way.

But it helps if you call animal control while you still have the dog in your sights — it’s ideal if you can follow the dog at a distance while on a mobile phone with the dispatcher, so the responding officer can make a visual sighting before you hang up.

There is nothing more frustrating to the dispatchers at animal control than getting 20 different calls from five different people who are reporting the same dog running at large here, then there, headed north now, and speeding southbound just a minute ago.

Just the other day, the Northwest SPCA received a dozen or so calls about a pit bull who was spotted in the historic downtown area. Nothing ramps up the urgency of these incoming “running at large” calls like the sight of these strongly built, muscled dogs.

This dog was so frightened of humans, and so unwise about traffic, that he nearly caused a half-dozen car accidents. As his fear grew, so did his speed. Catching him required the deployment of every animal control officer on staff (including the ones who usually have other duties at the Northwest SPCA), fanning out in a grid across town and communicating via radio. It took a sedative dart to capture him! Of course, he had no collar and no identification microchip.

If you have time — and a phone handy — please don’t just let “stray” dogs go on their way. Loose dogs are not only in danger themselves, they are at high risk of causing harm to others. Many a traffic accident (and even human fatalities) have been caused by drivers who try to avoid hitting a dog in the roadway.

Dogs who are hungry after a couple of days lost are driven by desperation to chase and kill chickens, cats, and livestock, or knock over garbage cans and eat anything that resembles food.

Intact male dogs who are being driven to roam by their hormones are in a super-charged state, ready to challenge and fight any other male dogs they might see in their travels — God forbid that dog is a handicapped person’s assistance dog, or walking on leash with a mother and small child on the way to the park, or with a frail elderly person.

And of course, the dog might just be desperately lost, and desperately sought by a heartbroken owner.

Sometimes, animal control officers already have their hands full of some other animal-related emergency, and the dispatchers have to prioritize. Obviously, officers need to respond to a report of a stray dog attacking someone or running down the middle of Oro Dam Boulevard before they are able to respond to a call regarding a loose dog spotted 10 minutes ago near Rotary Park.

Even if an officer is unable to respond right away to a low-priority call, it helps to have reports of sightings; sometimes, after receiving multiple sightings of the same dog, the officer is able to guess where the dog will be headed next. Aha! Stray dogs can be wily, but animal control officers can be, too!

In the city limits of Oroville and during business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday), call the Northwest SPCA at 533-7636. After hours and on weekends, call the Oroville Police Department at 538-2448, which will dispatch the animal control officers in an animal-related emergency (dog bites, animal attacks, dog impeding traffic, dog hit by car and in need of medical assistance).

In unincorporated county areas during business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday), call the Butte County Animal Control, 538-7409. On weekends (8 a.m.-4 p.m.), the officers will respond to emergencies only.

If you are not sure which agency serves your area, call the one you think is correct and ask whether they serve your area. Any agency can direct you to the right one if given your address.

Bowling fundraiser — Looking for something fun to do on Sunday, April 15? Join the Board of Directors and other supporters of the Northwest SPCA and “Bowl for the Animals” at our fourth annual bowling fundraiser, 1-3 p.m. at the Tyme to Bowl Lanes (at the Gold Country Casino) in Oroville. For more information, contact the Northwest SPCA at 533-7636.

~Courtesy of OrovilleMR.com

~Written by Nancy Kern, editor of The Whole Dog Journal, and a member of the NW SPCA board of directors.

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