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Cori Brown: Here’s hoping pet owners take proper care with wildlife teeming this summer | OUTDOORS COMMENTARY

Summer is officially just around the corner. It’s been an erratic spring to say the least.

Temperatures have been up and down and precipitation seems to be in the usual feast/famine mode. In other words, a typical Maryland spring.

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I’m counting my blessings in some respects. The gloom and doom cicada invasion has been a bust at our house. I’ve seen a few here and there and the dog attempted to snack on one, but I am quite happy to see the birds take out the sparse population that we do have.

On the other hand, I would not want to live in Glyndon, where we made a recent stop for candy (I am addicted to Wockenfuss dark chocolate nonpareils, and Glyndon is the closest place to get them).

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Cicadas were dropping out of the sky and zooming into me like a bunch of drunkards. Speaking of zooming, that’s exactly what I did from the store entrance to the car. It was a battlefield with cicada carcasses everywhere.

Thankfully, I had relatively quiet woods and fields to return to but unbeknownst to me, nature had something else to show me that filled me with sadness.

In the past month, we’ve had a pit bull, a husky mix and a lab mix running loose on our property. They are chasing any wildlife they see. This year has been especially plentiful with rabbits, deer, foxes, raccoons and opossums so they have lots of targets.

The day after I saw the pit bull and a husky running together in our fields, I found a dead fawn. It was so small. It could not have been very old when it met its death. It had a small wound on its belly. I have no way of knowing if the dogs ran it down or if something else got it. The possibility certainly exists that they had something to do with its demise.

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At least one of the dogs had tags so it definitely belonged to someone in the neighborhood. They would not to come to me to get them out of harm’s way and attempt to return them to their owner.

When I related this incident to Carroll County Animal Control, I was told that without an address for who owned the dogs, they could do nothing for me. Even photos of the dogs that I recovered on my trail cameras would not help.

This is a no-win situation. The reasons are obvious. We live close to a very busy road. I’ve seen the dogs run along the road going from one property to another. If this keeps up, it is only a matter of time before someone in a car hits them. Someone’s pet will be gone for no good reason.

Maryland has animal control laws that require that “The owner of a dog shall keep the dog under restraint or effective control at all times.” There’s nothing ambiguous about that.

Though I could not find the specific citation, it is my understanding that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources also prohibits dogs from chasing wildlife. The consequences of such actions can be lethal to both the dog and wildlife.

Protect and respect your neighbors and wildlife. Keep your pets under your control at all times.
Protect and respect your neighbors and wildlife. Keep your pets under your control at all times. (Cori Brown Photo)

I personally know of an incident where a family pet was chasing a deer during hunting season and a hunter killed him by mistake. What a tragic outcome for everyone involved.

There’s fear for my own safety and the safety of my dog Chester, too. Every time I step out of the house with him, he is on a leash and harness. What happens if these loose dogs come around while we are out? I know Chester would want to defend himself and I would want to defend him. I am actually thinking about carrying mace on my own property to keep both of us safe.

Chester has been with us only four months, but I already know he has a high prey drive, too, just like the loose dogs trespassing on our land. I can’t trust him to stay with me off leash like the previous dogs I’ve had. If he had the chance, he would chase every squirrel, rabbit, and deer he saw.

It will probably be years, if ever, before he runs off leash on our property. Being a responsible dog owner means he may never taste that kind of freedom. At least I know he’ll be safe, he won’t disturb the neighbors, and animals can live free of his natural instinct to chase them down.

This time of year is promising in so many ways, not the least of which is lots of newborn wildlife. If you are a dog owner or even an outdoor cat owner (outdoor cats kill 2.4 billion birds a year in the U.S.), please consider the negative impacts your pets make on the local wildlife and your neighbors when they are not properly controlled or confined to your own property.

By keeping your pets under your control, you guarantee that everyone, people and wildlife alike, can live safely and thrive. That’s what I call a win-win.

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