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April 5, 2014

In Our Opinion: Pets face risk when running wild

The Daily Star

---- — “Heartbreaking” is how Carol Mahoney described the death of her two dogs, who were shot in the face by Jared Boice. 

Boice, 34, of Walton, who was charged with two counts of animal cruelty, told police that he shot the dogs because they had been chasing deer. The animals’ bodies were found weeks later in a ravine off Finch Hollow Road. 

Another neighbor, who said the same dogs had killed several of his chickens, had allegedly threatened to shoot the animals. 

“Heartbreaking” is indeed a good word for what happened here, most of all because it could have been prevented. 

There is no question that Mahoney loved those dogs. The 50-year-old Walton woman called the Huskies, named Kodah and Mush, her “babies.” When she learned of their deaths, after the dogs had been missing for several weeks, she wrote on Facebook that her heart was in pieces.

But the lesson that Mahoney learned is that the animals we love so dearly are exposed to great risk when they leave the confines of our properties. 

Certainly, tragedy can strike at any time. A pet can become ill, or an accident can happen in your front yard or while walking a dog on a leash. 

But pets face exponentially more risk when they are loose in the world than when they are in an owner’s care. 

What happened to Mahoney’s dogs is an extreme example. Other dangers are more commonplace. Animals that stray from home can all too easily be hit by a car, get into a fight with another animal, pick up a parasite or contract rabies. Or they can simply wander off, never to be seen again by their owners. 

Of course, it has been argued that dogs thrive when they are given ample space in which to roam. The animal behavior expert Temple Grandin has written extensively about how vital it is for dogs to be free to play, preferably off the leash. 

But pet owners must balance dogs’ needs with their safety. Too much freedom can be just as bad as not enough. 

Not all dogs that are given freedom will take advantage of it. Some dogs seem perfectly content to stay on their porch or in their yard, and don’t seem to need a fence or a leash. But Mahoney’s dogs didn’t seem to fit that profile. 

We do not know anything about the circumstances that led Kodah and Mush to go missing. We do know that it had happened before. 

To suggest that Mahoney in any way deserved what happened to her beloved pets would be an extreme, and cruel, reaction. No one deserves to have an illegal act perpetrated against them. 

Rather, we see this incident as a particularly sobering reminder of the dangers — both man-made and otherwise — that pets face.