Drought conditions are pushing wildlife, including coyotes, into urban areas. This puts pets at risk.
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Pets at risk: keeping pets safe from wildlife

Elizabeth Medora~ 7/9/2014

PHOENIX – It’s been all too common this summer to see an online post or a flyer searching for a lost dog or cat. North valley pets have been falling victim to wildlife predators, even while they’re in their own backyards. How to keep pets safe? Local experts agree that the only guarantee of a pet’s safety is constant supervision, particularly at night.

Coyotes and owls are the most common predators of pets.

“Coyotes can scale a 7-foot fence without a problem. There’s a reason they’re called wily!” emphasized Lynda Lambert, Public Information Officer at Arizona Game and Fish Department. “They will separate and surround a dog and lead it off.”

Lambert describes great horned owls as another species to “watch out for.”

“Great horned owls can take a small dog or a cat,” she said.

Jill of Anthem Pets has personal experience with owls attacking pets. While her dog was in her walled backyard, an owl swooped at her dog, intending to carry it off. The owl was in for a surprise, however – Jill’s dog is 120 pounds! The owl retreated without harming her dog. Her neighbor’s dog was not so lucky.

“An owl attacked and killed my neighbor’s dog in their fenced backyard with full block walls,” Jill related. “They’re getting very, very brave over here.”

Anthem Pets has received multiple reports of lost or injured animals, according to volunteers Jill and Robin. In just one night, they were called about five separate missing cats. Even pets on retractable leashes have been attacked by predators. Anthem Pets recommends using regular leashes to keep pets closer to their owners as they walk.

One afternoon, they were called about coyotes attacking a large dog in a wash. Residents of a nearby house with a view fence saw the coyotes and managed to scare them away from the dog.

“You can’t leave animals alone in the backyard out here,” Jill stated.

The Arizona Humane Society also strongly recommends that animals be kept indoors, or at least have consistent, easily-accessed shelter.

“This time of year, as always, especially if you live in an area that’s known for having wildlife, I would highly recommend not letting pets outdoors without supervision,” said Bretta Nelson, Public Relations Manager at the humane society.

Nelson noted that the humane society recognizes that different people may have different views on whether their pets should be indoor or outdoor, but she added that all animals need access to some sort of shelter to protect them from both predators and overheating.

“Have shelter for pets so they can seek a safe place,” Nelson said.

If you find a hurt pet and don’t know who the owner is, AHS can be called to take the injured animal to their Second Chance Animal Hospital.

“The emergency animal medical technicians respond to 21,000 calls for help a year,” noted Nelson. To contact the humane society EAMTs, call (602) 997-7585 ext. 2073.

Drought conditions have led to an increase in wildlife activity in the area. Coyotes and other animals are coming into urban areas looking for food and water.

“Urban coyotes need to be discouraged,” said Lambert, sharing Game and Fish recommendations to deter coyotes.

“Do not leave food resources out, including bird food, leftover pet food, and water bowls. Make them feel unwelcome,” Lambert added.

Coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare; they generally do not challenge people at all. Therefore, to get to a dog or cat, a coyote will wait until the pet is alone, which makes owner supervision crucial to pets’ safety.

“Really, there is no way to keep them out of your yard and from hurting your pet without you being there to chaperone your pet and keep them safe,” Lambert emphasized. She noted that dog doors should be closed at night so pets can’t stroll outside alone.

Pets rely on their owners to keep them safe from predators.

“It comes down to the owner being the one to take control and make sure it doesn’t happen,” Lambert said. “Coyotes are everywhere.”