Pet Parenting: Is it safe to leave your dog tied up outside a shop unattended?

Today, I stumbled across a story from NY Daily News about a dog that was stolen and dyed black (in order to disguise the dog’s identity) from outside a store in Seattle.*

Naturally, this story shocked and appalled me.

‘Who would do that?’ I asked my partner. Why would they do that?’

When I read that the dognapper was a homeless woman, I felt sad. Sad for the poor, traumatised dog, sad for the anxious family and, yes, sad for the homeless woman. Because a sane, issue-free person doesn’t steal – and dye! – somebody else’s dog.

All in all, it was a pretty troubling and upsetting article.

But it also raised an important ethical question:

Is it safe to leave your pet unattended in public?

And is it good pet parenting to leave your dog tied up outside a store?

Even before I read the NY Daily News piece, this was something that had crossed my mind. Because when I’m imagining Future Pooch (i.e. the dog I don’t yet have), I already know that I want to spend as much time with them as possible.

And so I’ve wondered, ‘What about when we’re out together and I have to grab a smoothie, or pick up groceries or visit a public restroom? What happens to Future Pooch then? And is it safe to leave my dog tied up outside?’

Now, being a professional drama queen and expert worst-case-scenariost, I’ve already considered the myriad of things that could happen to Future Pooch while unattended in public. Here are just some of the things that have run through my mind:

  • They could get scared and anxious.
  • They could wiggle out of their collar/leash and run away.
  • … or run onto the road.
  • Somebody could unintentionally feed them something that wasn’t good for them.
  • A not-nice person could tease them, yell at them, or even hurt them.
  • If provoked, they may bite someone, especially if they feel threatened or in danger.
  • And, as proven by recent events in Seattle, they could get stolen.

Scary stuff.

And while we all hope that the people interacting with our pets are kind and decent, the reality is that we don’t know who we – and our pets – are dealing with and what their intentions are.

Now, as for the other what-if’s, I want to make it crystal clear that I plan on thoroughly socialising my pet so the expression ‘nothing phases them’ symbolises their philosophy to life. But even with early and proper socialisation and care, (please excuse the French), sh*t happens.

Dogs (even properly trained ones) are, at the end of the day, still animals. With animal instincts. And as such, we can’t predict their behaviour in each and every scenario.

We also can’t predict how other humans will behave.

And that’s where the ethical dilemma comes in:

Are we putting our dogs in danger by leaving them tied up outside shops?

Yes, it’s more convenient to have your dog tied up outside while you sprint into that cute cafe for a quick coffee or dash into the supermarket for some milk and veggies.

Yes, I know it’s only for a minute.

Yes, I know you can still practically SEE them.

Yes, I know that you’re alone and didn’t have any other options.

Yes, I know you want to bring your dog with you everywhere.

And yes, I think that’s awesome. I think you’re awesome.

But as we have seen from the – hopefully rare – incident in Seattle, sh*t does happen. Dogs get stolen. And unfortunately, not everyone has good intentions.

So, what do we do?

Should we look at every stranger with suspicion or send positive, good vibes into the Universe and hope that our dog isn’t the victim of some rare but traumatic incident?

I live in Sydney, Australia where animals and humans alike are thankfully quite safe. And I know that if I chose to leave my dog unattended outside a shop – as many others do – I would not be judged for it. And I certainly don’t judge others for leaving their dogs outside either. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we have and what we know.

But knowing what we know, should we take the risk and put our pets in danger?

It’s a tough question. And one I’d love to get your input on. Personally, I don’t plan on leaving my dog tied up and unattended in public. Not because I don’t trust them. Not because I don’t trust other people. Even if both things are a risk. But simply because it’s what feels right for me.

Drop me a comment to let me know your thoughts and where you stand on this topic.

*The Seattle story thankfully had a happy ending and family and pooch were reunited. 

Unsure whether you and your dog really have a strong bond? Check out this article on five signs you’ve bonded with your pet.  

Recent Comments

  • Charlotte
    October 29, 2015 - 10:18 am · Reply

    Hey – great article! In the past I’ve had dogs where I’ve left them tied up outside shops while I’ve ducked in quickly, usually I can still see them and often it’s just for a couple of minutes. Mostly my Great Dane who was scary enough looking (in size and colour at least, she was a big softy though) that people generally left her alone, and she was well socialised enough that nothing really phased her. With my new dog, an Australian Shepherd puppy, he’s cute enough that I think everyone would help themselves to patting him which isn’t great for him. He’d seriously get mobbed! Or possibly stolen. So I don’t think I’ll be doing the same thing with him. I guess it’s down to, like you said, what feels right for you and your dog.

    • FaunaPhilosopher
      October 29, 2015 - 10:29 am · Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Charlotte! Totally agree – it’s definitely something to consider on a case-by-case basis. I don’t think there’s any ‘right’ answer, we just have to trust our gut! P.S. I adore Aussie Shepherds!! What a beautiful pair you have :) x

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