A scary reminder not to let pets roam

I was driving on a country road southeast of St. Joseph this weekend when I came across a group of four or five dogs in the road. They were all different kinds, colors and sizes.

I had to stop my car, honk my horn, roll down my window, and still the dogs didn't want to get out of the road to let me pass. (They greeted me with friendly faces and wagging tails.) Finally, I got past them, but a little further down the road, a car was flying in the other direction. I tried to flash my lights at the car, but it was the middle of the day, and it was hard to get the driver's attention.

I spent the rest of the day feeling shaken, wondering if the dogs had been hit by a car and whether I could have or should have stopped to do anything for the dogs in the road.

Later that afternoon, I saw Carole Lindholm at PetSmart in Champaign. Carole teaches classses at the Dog Training Club of Champaign-Urbana, co-hosts a monthly show on dog training and behavior on WILL's AM 580 and is my favorite person to ask about dog-related questions. I told her about what happened and how sick I felt about it. She suggested I call Champaign County's Animal Control, even though I'd seen the dogs earlier in the day.

She also gave me a hug. "Dogs don't know cars can hurt them until they get hit," she told me. And owners sometimes think it's OK to let their dogs run, especially out in the country.

So I looked up the number for Animal Control, and talked to a wonderfully reassuring woman (I would've asked her name if I'd realized then I'd write about the incident). She told me a dog had been hit in the area I'd been driving through, and that its owners had taken it to the vet. I instantly felt better - I'd been worrying that this was a pack of abandoned dogs. Carole said there are some in the area.

The woman at Animal Control also told me that I should never try to pick up an injured animal - you just never know how it will react to pain. Instead, she suggested calling her office. I put its daytime number - 384-1238 - into my phone, as well as the 24-hour number - 333-8911 - which will send you to a dispatcher. I highly suggest you put this number in your cell phone, too, in case you ever run into a similar situation.

Also, after talking the incident over with Carole, I realize the importance of not letting dogs run, even out in the country. Also, spaying or neutering your animal will greatly reduce their instinct to wander, which will also help keep them safe. It won't take much effort, but will make a big difference.

Photo: from curiousanimals.net.

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Mary "Tief" Tiefenbrunn wrote on March 02, 2010 at 5:03 am
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Meg, thanks for covering this topic and including the phone numbers for Champaign County Animal Control. Your story also illustrates how letting dogs roam threatens public safety! I've received many calls from drivers on the Interstate reporting dogs in the median. Breaking for animals and dealing with distractions can cause serious accidents. -Tief

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 02, 2010 at 7:03 am
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That breaks my heart, to think of a dog on the interstate. I just don't understand who'd leave an animal to roam in that situation.