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.
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."
Current Climate Data (March 2023)
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March 2023 was the second-warmest March on record (globally). Sea ice extent was the second smallest on record. Our cool temperatures were an anomaly.
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