Protect Your Animals From Hunters' Stray Shots

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization, warns those living in rural or near wooded areas to take extra precautions to protect themselves and their pets from the stray shots that invariably fly from hunters' weapons around this time every year. Unintended victims of hunters in the past have included dogs being walked on leashes, cats, horses, and cows, as well as other hunters, and even homeowners in their own backyards. Hunters have shot companion and farm animals with everything from high powered rifles to arrows and buckshot.

During hunting season, anything that moves can be mistaken for a deer by a hunter in pursuit: a dog, a horse, or a suburban homemaker wearing white mittens. In 1988, Karen Ann Wood apparently looked like a deer to the hunter who shot and killed her as she stood in her yard in suburban Maine. The hunter, who was arrested and tried but found not guilty, said he saw a deer in the scope mounted on his rifle; her white mittens looked like the undertail of a fleeing deer.

To protect yourself and your companion animals The HSUS recommends the following precautions:

  • Wear a bright orange blaze vest when you spend any time outdoors--one for you and one for your dog. A horse can be protected with a blaze orange saddle pad or exercise bandages.
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times when outdoors. Don't leave dogs unattended in fenced-in yards.
  • Don't allow your cat outside unaccompanied.
  • Avoid outdoor activities around dawn or dusk, when poor lighting makes even bright orange clothing difficult to see.
  • Make lots of noise when you do spend time outdoors; you're less likely to be shot at if you sound "human."

"Unfortunately, there is no single action that will guarantee protection from stray bullets," says Susan Hagood, a wildlife issues specialist with The HSUS. "But if you use common sense and follow these recommendations, you can decrease the likelihood that you or your pet will become the unintended victim of a hunter."

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