Winter’s chill may have settled in your neighborhood, but your energetic pooch still wants to go for walks in the great outdoors. Take it slow and steady, pet parents. According to our experts, the danger of stray voltage on city streets can turn a simple stroll into a devastating event for our furry friends.
Most common in northern climes and urban areas, stray voltage occurs when dormant utilities leak excess electricity. Combined with wet streets and salt-based ice melts, this current can shock, injure or even prove fatal for those in its path. “Since salt used to treat icy streets is a great conductor of electricity,” says Dr. Louise Murray, ASPCA Director of Medicine and author of Vet Confidential, “the risk of shock from stray voltage is that much higher during the winter months.” The ASPCA offers the following tips to help you avoid potentially hazardous areas, and advice on what to do if your pet has suffered an electrical shock:
Keep your dog away from metal fixtures, such as lampposts, grates or manhole covers. While these spots may be your pet’s favorite place to relieve himself, they may also conduct hazardous electricity.
Your dog's snazzy, rubber rain boots may look good, but they won't protect your pooch from a strong current. Don’t depend on them to keep your pet safe. Some boots—those with metal studs, for example—may even make the situation worse.
Observe your dog’s behavior. Is he skittish, frightened, angry or upset for no apparent reason? These sudden behavioral changes could be an indication of electric shock.
If your dog is incapacitated due to shock, don’t try to touch or move him without protective gear. Your pooch may pass the current to you, rendering you both incapable of seeking help. Instead, call your local fire department immediately.
Know of an area in your neighborhood that could be affected by stray voltage? Contact city services—in New York City, dial 311—to alert the proper authorities. For more information about keeping your pet safe during the winter months, please read our cold weather tips.