Spring has officially sprung, although for those of us who live in the North the validity of that statement remains debatable! However, irrespective of whether you live in the snowy north or the balmy south, the evidence around us that spring is here is unmistakable – the wild animals and the birds know, and they are on the move. Although most of our domesticated pets are many steps removed from the wild, they know too and are eager to join in the spring frenzy.
Spring offers pet parents a wonderful opportunity to let their pets get outside into the fresh air and to check out what has changed over the winter. However, one thing that pet parents have to be particularly careful about at this time of year is keeping their pets under control.
With the heavy snowfall that has occurred in the north this year and the widespread destruction of wildlife habitats, through humans’ relentless search for the ideal home location, wildlife is being forced out into the open and ever closer to its human neighbors. With those human neighbors reside domestic cats and dogs which love to chase birds and animals, big and small, and will take any opportunity available to enjoy this instinctive pursuit.
The chasing of wildlife by domestic pets can have far reaching consequences for the pets, their human owners and the wildlife.
While cats are generally more lethal predators than dogs, the outcome of the chase can still be death even if the cat or the dog is unsuccessful in catching the bird/animal. As animals come out of hibernation they are comparatively weak following months of less than optimal nutrition, the energy they expend fleeing an exuberant domestic pet may leave them depleted for a chase involving a wild predator. New mothers and their offspring are also particularly vulnerable in this regard. Sometimes domestic pets underestimate their wild opponent and may end up maimed or killed. Additionally these encounters between domestic pets and wildlife provide dangerous opportunities for the mutual transfer of disease and injury.
In addition to the toll taken upon the animals during these encounters pet parents can be held directly responsible for the damage that their pets do and may (dependant upon the state/province and type of animal/bird that is harassed or injured) be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined. Furthermore in many states cats and dogs that are caught harassing protected wildlife may be impounded or destroyed immediately. State and Federal legislation concerning dogs (and cats) chasing wildlife may be reviewed at http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arusdogschasewildlifetable.htm .