#15 Dogs off-leash are terrifying kittens

Question: We are ready to trap and socialize a group of kittens but unfortunately we have some very heartless dog walkers that are letting their dogs off-leash in the area where we are trying to gain confidence with the feral kittens. Trapping has become impossible because neither we nor the cats know when a dog is going to come attacking out of nowhere. One very nice dachshund becomes a killing machine when off his leash, and the owner is deaf to our pleas of cooperation. We do have very strict leash laws in place, but our law enforcement doesn't have the manpower to be arresting errant dog walkers. Any suggestions??
At wits end in Whittier

Dear Whittier,

Since this is life or death, I'll share with you a tactic that worked in another dire situation involving dogs off-leash attacking cats. I can't recommend that you do this too, because it may be illegal but here's what some other desperate feral caretakers did in your situation. They posted signs saying "Danger, Rat Poison has been placed in this area to control the rodent population. Use extreme Caution." Usually dog owners will leash there dog if they think there is a danger for their dog, even when they couldn't care less about the safety of cats. These renegade cat-rescuers even went so far as to fake a health department official notice with a logo that they lifted from their cities Health Dept. website. Apparently they just highlighted the logo and copied it or clicked and dragged it to the top of their bogus "official" notice. Since this is surely illegal, I can't recommend such extreme measures which could get you arrested. They did not get caught perhaps because they were careful not to let anyone see them putting the signs up and were prepared to replace them regularly when people tore them down. They even went so far as to put some phony poison-bait boxes down with a printed skull and cross bones on them. This was apparently necessary to get one particularly obstinate dog owner to take notice. No harm was done to his dog since it was only a little peanut butter and oatmeal but the heartless guy finally stopped letting his dog off the leash when he saw his dog gobbling something down by the water. Most people protected their dogs right away. Not surprisingly, this guy didn't bother rushing his dog to the vet, so they didn't need to blow there cover with an anonymous call to appease the vet that no poison was actually involved.

If you are the guerrilla-rescuer type of person that does this kind of thing, make sure you don't get arrested! It's best not to tell anyone about it and just keep it to yourself while the dog walkers gradually notice the signs. If they call the health dept. to ask about it or to complain, no one will know if it's true or who put the signs up. The person on the phone at the Health Dept. probably won't even know for sure if it is true without a lot of checking.

I should mention that this may only work if you haven't been complaining yet to the dog walkers and they don't think of you as "that crazy cat guy". If you have already alienated the dog walkers, they may not believe the signs and suspect that you put them up and it isn't true. If this is the case, don't do this or they will surely suspect you and send the police to knock on your door. At the very least, wait awhile to make them forget about the protests in the past if you've voiced any. Only after they think you've resigned yourself to stop complaining will you not be the first person they suspect if the signs don't look of city government quality.

What I can recommend with a clear conscience is that you try not to antagonize the dog-owners face to face in any way. This can often backfire and they become outright cruel when beforehand they were only careless and indirectly harmful to the cats. If you antagonize them, they often get childish and will start actually trying to get their dogs to chase the cats just to get back at YOU for criticizing them. YOU can actually turn them into cat-haters where before they were just being inconsiderate. Many times people problems turn into problems that hurt the cats because one person uses the cats to get back at another person. Whales save Us!!!

I really don't know a good way to get a dog walker to take consideration for free-roaming cats in an effective way through pointing out their heartlessness and cruelty. If I did, I'd be much to busy to be writing a blog. Anything that suggests to another person that they are being selfish, cruel or breaking the law just seems to make them dig their heels in and get defensive. If you are a born diplomat, go for it but i don't know what to suggest. If you have a dog of your own on a leash, you may get a better reception. If you have to start with defending the squirrels and see how they react before mentioning the cats. Above all, don't lose your temper and start screaming to satisfy your own contempt for the person's thoughtless cruelty. That won't help the cats. Think up something ingenious and win them over with your wit, humor and try to channel Ghandi, Will Rodgers, Oprah or whoever you can muster. Bite your tongue and listen MORE than you preach. If you can do it, your a better man than I. I know the theory but maybe in my next life I'll be able to apply it.

Best, Mike

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