Keep your ‘escape artist’ pets safe at home with tips from Howell Police

Howell, NJ – Residents see faces every week on the Department of Police Department Facebook page – beautiful, and clearly well cared for dogs who have just roamed the house.

They are arrested by the police after being spotted by the public. The lucky ones are provided with a microchip or registered in town with the collar and are reunited within hours with their owners.

But others who have not been given a temporary home with Howell Police before monitoring the animals must house them in a shelter, hoping to reunite the pet and the owner.

Police Officer Heather Scherbinsky, who has been tasked with serving as the department’s animal welfare officer, said summer is setting the stage for an increase in the number of lost dogs.

“It’s summer, and the fences were accidentally left open. Or the kids come and go and don’t remember closing the gates,” she said.

Scherbinski is a patrol officer, so she is primarily on the road and deals with animal issues as part of her job.

While on patrol, she may discover problems with pets, although calls to the police often alert officials to dangerous conditions.

She also offered some tips for residents—and anyone who loves their pet dog—to help avoid posting your pet as “lost.”

“A lot of pets are just escape artists,” she said. But you may be able to beat them with some of her tips:

Security Tips

“The advice I would give pet owners is to keep pets indoors, especially during inclement (hot/cold) weather,” she said in response to an email.

She said that when your dog is outside, a suitable animal shelter should be provided. In addition to constant access to fresh food and water in a liquid state, the law states that shelter must be robust and sound and include:

  • Proper ventilation and cooling area whether natural or artificial so that they can maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Natural or artificial light to match the normal day/night cycle.
  • Enough space for the animal to move in a full circle, sit, and lie down with their limbs extended.

In addition, she said, the shelter should be sanitary, clean, and be able to reduce water buildup. It’s also helpful to have a windbreak in the front to keep the elements out.

But safety is a big step in making sure your pet stays safely on your property, and not lost.

“Make sure your backyard is safe,” Scherbinsky said. “If there are any entry/exit areas an animal could slip through, patch them before leaving the animal outside.”

Howell Township also requires pet owners to register their cats and dogs each year at the clerk’s office and display this registration mark on their collar.

She added that if an animal escapes and disappears, this will allow the police to easily identify the owner in order to return home safely once they are found. Microchipping is a great way to get to know your pets, but be sure to update and refresh the data each year.

Beware of penalties

She explained the penalties related to shelters and controlling your pets:

“When it comes to proper shelter, if an owner does not follow the law, they may be criminally charged with not providing proper shelter to the animal. There are also town laws that can be issued to owners when pets are found at large, such as running wild. If they are not registered within the town, A subpoena can also be issued to the owner for the presence of an unregistered dog or cat. These are all mandatory matters of the court.”

She also added some other tips for pet owners that you may not be familiar with regarding tethering dogs.

She said it is illegal to severely restrain a dog:

  • Breastfeeding female or less than four months old.
  • Outdoors between 11pm and 5am
  • In an unoccupied building or an unoccupied property.
  • Restricted in such a way that the dog does not have constant access to fresh water whenever the dog is restrained for 30 minutes or more.
  • Tethered in such a way that the dog is exposed to adverse environmental conditions for more than 30 minutes.
  • Restricted using a choke collar, notched collar, head straps, any other type of collar, seat belts, or similar device other than an appropriate belt collar or buckle.
  • Use a chain link metal more than a quarter inch thick or a rope or collar with an attached weight.
  • Attached to more than one attachment dog.
  • Using a rope that allows the dog to reach another dog or puts it at risk of entanglement, suffocation, drowning, or other harm to the dog’s health and safety.

She noted that leaving an animal alone in a car is another example that can have tragic consequences.

“Animals left unattended in vehicles under inhumane conditions that harm the health or welfare of animals or living creatures is another common problem that police often encounter,” she said.

She said it is illegal to leave an animal unattended in your car under these circumstances. She added that these violations could lead to criminal charges if the owner or the person caring for the animal was found to have been violated.

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