Monday, February 20, 2012

Pet etiquette an important part of being a good guardian

Pets are part of the family. We love them and want them with us as much as possible. We take them to the park, on vacation and with us as we run our daily errands. We in Prescott, Arizona are fortunate to live in such a pet-friendly community, with so many pet-friendly hotels, apartments, restaurants and businesses. Nowhere is Prescott's love of pets more evident than on our courthouse square, where pets and people mingle from dawn to dusk.

With so much human/animal interaction in our community, it's important we all practice pet etiquette. Etiquette, simply stated, is having good manners and behaving in a way that makes others feel comfortable. Pet etiquette is making sure others feel comfortable around our pets - and it's easy to do as we follow these basic rules:

License your dog. If you love your pet, license your pet. Licensing your dog is not just good pet etiquette, it's the law. Whatever community you live in, you are required to license your dog. The reason is simple, your dog's license could be his ticket home should he ever become lost. If you really love your pet, you will microchip him, too.

Obey the Leash Law. If you are a dog lover, you no doubt have encountered the retractable leash. These "leashes" allow dogs to wander 20 feet or more from their owner. I have seen people and dogs seriously injured because of these contraptions. People trip over the extended lines, and dogs get into fights with other dogs while the owner is preoccupied or unable to stop it. Not only are these devices dangerous, they are illegal on public property in most communities. Most city ordinances state something to the effect that, "It shall be unlawful for a dog to be at large ... A dog is not deemed at large provided said dog is restrained by a leash ... not more than 6 feet." The purpose of a leash is to control of your dog, something you cannot do with a retractable leash.

Don't leave pets in vehicles. It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. On a 78-degree day, the temperature in a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees - and hit a scorching 160 degrees if parked in the sun.

In just 15 minutes, your pet's body temperature can climb from normal to deadly levels that will damage the nervous and cardiovascular systems, often leaving the animal comatose, dehydrated and at risk of permanent impairment or death.

Intentionally leaving an animal unattended or confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury or death is likely to result is a violation of Arizona State Statute 13-2910.7. The law permits authorities to use reasonable force to rescue your pet.

Don't transport pets in the back of pickup trucks. Sadly, there is no law against this practice, but there ought to be. Transporting a dog untethered or uncrated in the open bed of a pickup truck endangers both the dog and other motorists. All it takes to jettison a dog into traffic is one abrupt stop, quick turn or bump in the road, resulting in broken bones, bruising, road rash and quite possibly death.

Clean up after your pet. Need I say more?

If we can help monitor and educate each other regarding these common violations of pet etiquette, we can create a safer environment for our pets and each other.

If you would like to join the fun and become part of Prescott's pet-loving community, consider becoming a member of the Yavapai Humane Society.  You can also sign up for the Walk for the Animals at this website.  I hope to see you there!

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.