Is it Safe to Approach a Stray Dog?
A stray dog may be a friendly lost pet – or it could be a dangerous and aggressive animal. Since you do not know the nature of a stray dog, you must approach the situation with the utmost caution. Always put your safety and well-being first. Keep the following information and tips in mind if you encounter a stray dog in Los Angeles.
The Risks of Approaching a Stray Dog
Assume that a stray dog is dangerous until it is proven otherwise. Your goal may be to help the dog, but it will not know this. Dogs can be extremely dangerous, especially if they feel threatened. Dog bite statistics for 2019 show a total of 59 deaths nationwide, in addition to hundreds of serious injuries. There are many risks involved with approaching a stray dog, including:
- The dog may be aggressive or vicious.
- If you are alone, the dog may severely injure you before you can get help.
- The dog could be injured and lash out in fear.
- The dog may be carrying rabies or another communicable disease.
- There may be other stray or wild dogs close by.
- The dog may get spooked and run into traffic.
A stray dog can be unpredictable, especially if it is lost, hurt or fearful. Any dog, no matter how friendly, may turn to biting, growling or lunging as a survival instinct if it feels scared or endangered. Before you go anywhere near a stray dog, learn a few tips to keep yourself safe.
Don’t Do it Alone
Before you approach a stray dog, have a plan in place for removing yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. If you are not sure whether the dog will attack you, have a safe shelter (such as your car or a nearby home) available for refuge. Arrange to have someone go with you or contact animal control to send a team of professionals to capture the dog for you.
Read the Dog’s Body Language
If you wish to approach or capture a stray dog, start by assessing its body language. Observe the animal from a distance and do not approach if you notice any signs of stress or aggression. This may include a crouched position, tail tucking, cowering, erect ears, growling, excessive drooling, a low bark, flattening of the ears, raised hackles, stiffness of posture or intense tracking of you. The safest thing to do if the dog’s behaviors are questionable is to call animal control for help.
Get the Dog’s Attention
If the dog does not appear to be aggressive, get its attention. Make soft kissing or clicking noises so that the dog sees you are there. Talk gently rather than shouting, as a loud approach may startle the stray or cause it to become defensive. If you have treats or food with you, gently toss them toward the dog. Try to avoid direct eye contact or towering over the dog.
Approach With Caution
If you feel it is safe to do so, approach the dog slowly and with caution. The best thing to do is to crouch or sit down and wait for the dog to approach you. Try putting your hand out with your palm up to encourage the dog to approach. If the dog begins to display any aggressive signs, slowly back away and call animal control.
Check for an ID
If you manage to get close to the stray dog, check his or her collar or tags for the owner’s contact information. With a tag available, you can contact the owner. If possible, put the dog on a rope or leash or bring the dog home with you to wait for the owner to pick it up. If there is no tag, call animal control to collect the dog. They will hold the dog in a safe place until the owner can be found and they can be reunited.
If you get bitten by a stray dog, contact a Los Angeles dog bite injury lawyer at Rose, Klein & Marias, LLP for legal assistance. You may be entitled to financial compensation.