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Editorial: Safety, control: Burden is on pet owners

What happened to June Moyer recently while visiting River Falls should never happen to anyone who has a dog, cat or other animal that’s part of the family. As reported in last week’s Journal, Moyer’s dog Zoey was snatched from her arms, mauled, and, as she describes, had its insides ripped to shreds by a larger dog, a young pit bull.

More horrific was that this night tragedy spilled over onto North Main Street as Moyer and others from a motel gave chase to catch the pit bull and rescue their dog, a small rat terrier. There was a human/canine pileup in the middle of the street with drivers having to slow and swerve.

But finally, there was no happy ending for the Moyers who were visiting a daughter enrolled at UW-River Falls. They had brought Zoey and another family dog to cheer up their daughter during the visit. Zoey would end up dying slowly from being disemboweled after a 40-minute late night ride to a 24-hour veterinary clinic in the Twin Cities.

More often than should happen, River Falls police are called to handle reports of dog bites, sometimes to other dogs, sometimes to people, and for roaming dogs and cats in the city’s neighborhoods. Often the biting occurs when people are out walking their dog.

These are preventable. Whether it’s a pit bull, rottweiler, rat terrier, poodle or any variety, owners must always make sure their dogs are securely leashed, tied up, behind a fence, kept inside or whatever so that other people or pet animals aren’t attacked. Moyer adds that this is especially important with dogs that have aggressive traits, and that rigorous puppy training is needed so that such traits don’t flare up and cause harm.

Her message, on the heels of her personal tragedy, is one every pet owner should take to heart. We would also urge cat owners to take the same approach.

For some reason many seem to believe that, unlike dogs, cats can be let free to roam. But stray cats, like dogs, violate city and town laws. Free-ranging cats also do ecological harm. A recent Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute study shows they kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds annually.

Caring for domesticated pets brings out a bond of tenderness between human and animal. It’s a special bond, but one that also carries a solemn responsibility so that other lives aren’t hurt.