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Please don't dump your dog in the wilderness

Uploaded: Apr 16, 2023

Ugh, I can’t believe I even need to write this blog post, but here goes. The other day I was in the Baylands when a woman passing by asked if I’d seen a loose husky. I said no, I’d keep an eye out, then asked when the owners had lost their dog. She said it was not lost, it had been dumped, and had been running around for a few days. It was skittish and should not be approached. Instead, if spotted, I should call the non-emergency police number. She said this happens often, people dump their dogs out there, and it’s a terrible thing. They can’t survive and what gets them in the end are the nearby cars. Presumably they get hungry and disoriented, or they are running from something, and end up injured or dead.


Source: StockSnap

Dogs are abandoned often in Tahoe as well. Some time last year there was a husky running loose in Tahoe City, also very skittish. People tried for weeks to catch it and finally it was caught with an elaborate trap. The shelter found a tag and called the owners, who they expected to be relieved their dog was found. Instead the owners said they didn’t want the dog any more and refused to take it. By the time their abandoned dog was caught, it was gaunt and limping from a car accident on 89.

Dogs are a big responsibility and we don’t always know what we’re getting into. Only a week after I got my first dog from the pound, I called them up to ask about returning it because I was having to get up at all hours to take it out. They shamed me and also gave me some advice and I kept at it. Another time, after owning that same dog for about 6-7 years, my circumstances changed and I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep her. I found a good owner in Tahoe, a place she loved, and drove her all the way up there with her bed and toys and food. I was sobbing as I handed her off, and told the person if she ever had any doubts or couldn’t keep her, please let me know, even after many years. I drove home bereft. Two days later, apparently my dog had kept trying to leave and get home, so the person called me, said she felt that my dog wanted to be home, and drove her all the way back. My dog seemed pretty sheepish for about a week. I did a lot of training and got some help, and it turned out to be okay.

Sometimes there are behavioral issues with a dog. Sometimes the issues are financial. This eight-month-old puppy was left in the woods with all of her things with a badly broken leg. Presumably the owner couldn’t afford to fix it.


A puppy with a broken leg was abandoned. Source: Humans and Animals United

I had a friend whose dog had very bad separation anxiety. It did all sorts of damage when left at home or even in the car. He was able to work through it with training and patience, but that might not be possible for all families.

The point is, almost every dog owner has run into difficulty, and there is no shame in admitting that you might be in over your head. But abandoning your dog to “run free” is never the right answer. It’s not good for the animal, for people in the area, or for the place where you leave them. You are leaving the animal’s fate up to chance, and it’s often a bad fate. Some dogs will wait for days for their owners, or try to follow their departing owner. Many become injured, diseased, and/or killed. People in the area can get hurt if they are driving and come across one of these animals on the road. The owner, if caught, can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1000. Finally, native species in places like the Baylands can be threatened, stressed, and damaged by these non-native predators.

If you are struggling to take care of a pet, contact an animal shelter to understand your options. Even if it is hard to talk about with the shelter, abandoning your pet silently may leave you with long-term guilt. If you can do what’s best for your dog as well as for your household, then that is an outcome you can be proud of.

Laura Birdsall, Director of Shelter Operations for Pets in Need, agrees. "Abandoning animals anywhere, for any reason, is not humane. Please, do not do it. Pets In Need is here to help on the Peninsula! Our goal is to keep families together and we offer low cost or free: spay/neuter, vaccinations, medical care, food, and training. We are also here when someone is unable to care for their animals and keep them healthy and safe. Residents of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills can responsibly surrender their animals to Pets In Need in Palo Alto."

If you are getting a puppy from a shelter, consider doing some simple behavior tests to assess its personality. I like those described in Good Owners, Great Dogs. If you are getting a pure-bred, Paws to Consider has useful descriptions of different species. (Both books are by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson.) Huskies are notoriously difficult dogs, for example, as are border collies. They need a lot of activity, attention, and training, and a firm owner. There are better choices for hectic households.

Anyway, I’m sorry to have to write this post. We can and should do better.

P.S. Here is a sad update from Birdsall: "The stray husky you referenced was accompanied by a pug, who is now safely in our care. Our Animal Control Officers were not able to catch the husky, and tragically she was later found deceased on Embarcadero and 101 after being hit by a car."

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Comments

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Apr 16, 2023 at 7:35 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Dumping a dog is cruel, including dumping it with a friend/family member or returning to a shelter. When you get a dog, your dog is yours for life. If you can't handle dog ownership, get some fish or nothing at all. No excuses.


Posted by Ugh, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 16, 2023 at 9:42 am

Ugh is a registered user.

Agree with the above comment.


Posted by Larry, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 17, 2023 at 10:50 am

Larry is a registered user.

Some veterinarians maintain a fund to help pay for services for clients in financial need. I know because I contribute to such a fund. So if you have a pet that needs care that you cannot afford, call around to see if you can find a vet who has such a fund.


Posted by TripleLMember, a resident of Triple El,
on Apr 17, 2023 at 4:26 pm

TripleLMember is a registered user.

I agree that no pet should be abandoned in the wilderness or on the streets. However, we should be more sympathetic to people who may have to rehome their pets because of unforeseen circumstances. I know a family who is trying to figure out what to do when they found that their new-born baby is allergic (has bad skin rashes) to their pet dog. Talks about horns of dilemma.


Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 17, 2023 at 4:30 pm

Neal is a registered user.

No excuses? I once adopted a dog as a result of backyard breeding. This turned out to be a dangerous dog. It was only a matter of time before it bit somebody. All the training in the world wasn't going to "fix" this dog. I took it to the animal shelter and after explaining why we couldn't keep it, it was obvious they were going to euthanize it. I have no regrets.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 17, 2023 at 5:50 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hi all. I wasn't able to contact Laura Birdsall, the Director of Shelter Operations for Pets in Need, in time for this blog post, but she did get back to me today. I will update the post but want to include the information here as well. She says:

The stray husky you referenced was accompanied by a pug, who is now safely in our care. Our Animal Control Officers were not able to catch the husky, and tragically she was later found deceased on Embarcadero and 101 after being hit by a car.

...

Pets In Need offers the following as guidance for guardians who may be struggling and believe that abandoning their animal(s) is an ethical/advisable option:

Abandoning animals anywhere, for any reason, is not humane. Please, do not do it. Contact your local animal shelter. Reach out to us at https://petsinneed.org

Animals in unfamiliar territory are lost – they don’t know where to find safe water, food, and shelter. Often, abandoned animals are hit by cars, and/or preyed upon by wild animals.

Domestic animals abandoned in wildlife areas try to survive and can harm native wildlife and the ecosystem.

Pets In Need is here to help on the Peninsula! Our goal is to keep families together and we offer low cost or free: spay/neuter, vaccinations, medical care, food, and training. Reach out to us at https://petsinneed.org

Pets In Need is also here when someone is unable to care for their animals and keep them healthy and safe. Residents of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills can responsibly surrender their animals to Pets In Need in Palo Alto.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 17, 2023 at 8:44 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Larry, it's lovely that you mention that. Related, I have donated to The Street Dog Coalition, which helps to care for pets owned by people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Several vets from Adobe Animal Hospital volunteer there.


Posted by Consider Your Options. , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2023 at 11:49 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Please do not adopt a dog unless you are fully prepared for the many things the dog from you for the rest of its life.

Check your budget: Can you afford vet care, food, and all of the other things a dog needs?
Do you have adequate space so your dog will be happy?
Do you have a family that is prepared to care for a dog in a kind and self-disciplined way? Have they agreed to do this?
Do you have (or can you afford) dog care for when you may be ill or not at home?
Do you have the TIME (lots of it) to train and regularly walk and care for a dog on a reliable schedule for the rest of the dog's life??

If you do not, please do not get a dog. There are lots of web sites on what you should think about. Please think through the decision to get a dog very carefully. It is a huge commitment. NEVER dump a domesticated dog in the woods. That is completely inhumane. It likely will die a terrible death of starvation or worse. This story is heart-breaking. Humans can be selfish and cruel. They can also be responsible and loving. Please exercise your responsible and loving traits when you consider adopting a dog. Love is kind. Kindness requires self-discipline.


Posted by Leslie Bain, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Apr 19, 2023 at 7:29 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Sherry, you have written a powerful column. Thank you for your bravery in truthfully sharing some of your own stories. I hope your words are widely read.

Situations such as these make me honestly despair over humanity itself. What on earth are people thinking? A dog is like a young child, a being that is highly trusting and lacks the capacity to understand. To take such a being into a strange place and hope that it will fend for itself, and everything "will turn out ok" ... I just cannot get my head around that. If one can no longer care for a pet, and one is not able to find a new home for it, do the responsible thing and have it put down. Otherwise you are just abandoning it and inflicting suffering ... on a creature that you once considered part of your family. It's cruel, it's awful. Please don't do it.


Posted by Eeyore, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 20, 2023 at 5:53 pm

Eeyore is a registered user.

This makes me sad.


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