Encountering Loose Animals
The St. Charles County Animal Control Ordinance requires owners or keepers of animals to properly control them, and Missouri law states that owners may be liable for any injuries or damage caused by their pet. County ordinance and laws in every St. Charles County jurisdiction require dogs to remain on leash whenever they are outside an owner's/keeper's property in a residential-zoned district. Leashes help to prevent animals from frightening or encountering people or other pets, causing unwanted damage, running in traffic and getting away.
Tips for Encountering Loose Animals
Although adequate control is required for animals, there may be situations where you encounter a loose or stray animal in your neighborhood. There is no exact set of behaviors for this, you can protect yourself and your pet by assessing the situation. Is the approaching dog relaxed and just curious, or is it being aggressive?
Based on this approach evaluation, you may try several options:
- Remain as calm as possible. Leave your hands to your sides and do not make eye contact with the animal. Avoid fast movement or loud noises.
- If you have any treats or toys on hand, you can throw them at the dog and remove yourself from the location slowly.
- Speak in an authoritative voice and tell the dog to “Leave” or “Go Home”.
- Use a nearby object like a trash can, rake or large toy to create a barrier between yourself and the loose animal.
- If the dog knocks you to the ground, curl into a tight ball and use your arms/hands to protect your face and other vital areas.
- If your dog becomes involved in a fight with the animal, stay calm. Use a stick, rake or water to distract the dogs from each other, but do not put your body parts in between the dogs. You can also try an air horn or citronella spray to interrupt the fight.
Many pet owners choose retractable leashes; thinking that this gives their pet more freedom to enjoy their experience. However, these devices can lead to unintended harms and injuries to both the animal and people. The Division of Humane Services recommends leashes no longer than 10 feet in length and suggests owners speak with their veterinarians for a recommendation.
Benefits of a shorter leash:
- Well-trained dogs walk with a “loose” leash, while retractable leashes encourage dogs to pull away.
- Dogs on retractable leashes are difficult to control. They can quickly extend themselves into roadways, encounter other animals or run away from their owner. This lack of control brings a greater risk for people and other animals to be bitten, scratched or attacked.
- Long leashes can cause injuries. Spine and neck injuries to the animal and rope burns or bruises to the owner are common.
- Longer leashes are less strong and break easier than short leashes – especially with larger animals.
Enjoying Area Dog Parks
Dog parks have grown in popularity across the country, and St. Charles County offers several of the best off-leash areas in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. These fenced areas allow opportunities for pets to exercise and socialize with other dogs. To familiarize yourself with park features and find the best location for your pet, it’s encouraged that owners visit the park without their pet the first time.
In order to keep dog parks fun for pets and their owners, here are a few good Dog Park Etiquette tips to consider:
- Each park may have a different set of rules, so familiarize yourself with facility regulations.
- Make sure that your dog is current on all vaccinations, and do not bring puppies less than four months of age to any dog park. Puppies have not had all shots necessary to allow them to play safely with other dogs.
- Never leave your dog unattended, and always pay attention to what your dog is doing. According to Missouri law, you are responsible for any injuries or damages caused by your pet.
- Don’t bring too many dogs with you at any time without help! You may not be able to keep adequate control of your dogs, if there are too many to handle.
- Never bring a female dog “in-season” to an off-leash park for the safety of all dogs and out of respect for other owners.
- If your dog starts to play too rough or becomes unruly, leash him or her and leave the park. If you notice a group of dogs bullying another dog, make sure your dog is not one of them and encourage other owners to do the same.
- Monitor your dog’s behavior and become familiar with common play behaviors for various breeds. Consult dog trainers and information on body language to help interpret conflicts before they occur.
- Pick up after your pet and properly dispose of waste. In addition to being unseemly, pet waste spreads disease and adversely impacts the environment.
- Be friendly with other dog owners, as this will help everyone have a much more enjoyable outing.