July 6 Peninsula Clarion on damage caused by free-roaming dogs

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2001

The excuses run as rampant as the dogs:

My dog is too small to chase moose.

My dog is too slow to chase moose.

My dog is too old to chase moose.

My dog is too gentle to chase moose.

My dog is too lazy to chase moose.

My dog doesn't chase anything.

How could my dog chase moose? He sleeps all day, and he doesn't even eat.

Oh, and there's that Last Frontier excuse: I moved to Alaska so my dog could run free.

Ted Spraker, area game biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, has heard it all.

And he's seen the damage free-roaming dogs can cause to public and private property, pets and wildlife. It isn't pretty.

His solution to the problem is simple: If you want to keep your dog and keep it safe, then keep it home.

Granted, dogs and other pets can get free from the most caring and well-intentioned pet owners. Accidents do happen.

There are some folks, however, who habitually and purposefully let their dogs run loose -- and then deny the damage they do or are capable of doing.

The fact is when dogs chase moose calves or other wildlife they are just doing what dogs do. It's not the dog's fault; it is the fault of irresponsible humans.

Twenty to 30 dogs on the central Kenai Peninsula are dead this year because they were seen harassing wildlife. That's a low estimate. Most of the dogs were shot by private citizens, but Alaska Department of Fish and Game workers and Fish and Wildlife Protection officers spend a great deal of time trying to protect wildlife from dogs on the loose, and sometimes that means shooting someone's pet.

Dogs on the loose not only put a strain on relationships in a neighborhood, they drain state resources.

If people were more responsible with their animals, then time, money and energy would not have to be used to kill people's pets in order to save the public's wildlife. State efforts could be used on something far more constructive.

Alaska's wildlife, however, is a valuable public resource. It should be protected.

It would be a lot easier if individuals cooperated by taking the necessary precautions to ensure their pets don't run free.

Wildlife isn't the only thing in jeopardy when dogs are allowed to run free. Earlier this week, dogs entered the Roughy Road Rabbitry south of Soldotna, killing 23 pedigreed animals and causing an estimated $2,535 in monetary damages. Not counted in that damage estimate is years of work lost in developing a line of rabbits bred as pets.

It's just not right.

Loose-running dogs are destroying public and private property, killing wildlife, and injuring and killing other domestic pets.

The sad fact is until irresponsible humans own up to being the problem there will never be a lasting solution. And state employees -- as well as the neighbors of those irresponsible pet owners -- will have to continue to spend their time shooting pets in order to protect wildlife and other property.

There really is no good excuse for letting dogs run free. Pets are paying the price for their owners' irresponsible behavior. -

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