Cats and Dogs
Tips for Keeping Cats and Dogs Safe around Wildlife
There are several steps you can take to help protect your pets from encounters with wildlife:
- Do not allow your pets to free-range. Free-ranging cats are at risk not only from conflicts with wildlife but also domestic dog attacks, injuries from vehicle strikes, and a range of diseases. In some counties and cities, allowing pets to range freely is prohibited.
- Prevent pets from interacting with wildlife, including chasing or “playing.” Wildlife behavior around pets can rapidly change based on the time of year or other conditions.
- Walk dogs on non-retractable leashes that are 6 feet or less, especially at night, dusk or dawn.
- Be alert and cautious when walking your pets in wooded areas or areas that have heavy foliage, where wildlife may be resting or denning and are more difficult to see.
- Turn on outdoor lights and make noise prior to taking your dog out at night in your yard. It is best to accompany your dog, even in fenced yards. This will help scare off any wildlife that may be in your yard to avoid a negative encounter.
- To prevent interactions between pets and alligators, avoid walking pets next to the water’s edge of ponds, lakes, rivers, wetlands or other fresh or brackish water bodies. Pets should not be allowed to swim in these areas as well. Alligators are found throughout Florida in these water bodies and are not always visible. Pets should also be prevented from interacting with other wildlife found in these areas, such as river otters and snakes.
- Do not leave pet food unattended outside. Feed pets in your presence and immediately remove any uneaten food and feed containers.
- When feeding pets outdoors, do not chain or restrict a dog's movements so that it cannot get away from its food as this is more likely to cause an aggressive encounter if wildlife approaches. Chained or tethered pets are more vulnerable to conflicts with wildlife that could lead to serious injury or death. Make sure to follow any county and city laws regarding tying out, tethering or chaining of pets, as your area may legally restrict or prohibit this practice.
If your pet is bitten or injured by wildlife, contact your veterinarian for follow-up care. Mammal bites should also get reported to your local county health department.
Protect Your Pets
Check out the "Protect Your Pets" brochure for great tips on how to prevent conflicts between your pets and wildlife.