By Lynn Stacy-Smith
When my firefighter husband I merged households I brought with me my two large almost-senior age dogs. Dutch, my German Shorthaired Pointer, was nine years old and was perfectly behaved around the home, except for some periodic counter surfing incidents that were apparently worth the risk of receiving a reprimand from me. As I left my own place with its electric stove with knobs far out of reach of a tall GSP and into a home with a gas stove with easily accessed knobs, I obsessed over the question of whether or not Dutch might erroneously turn on the gas while I was at home.
As someone prone to thinking through “worst case scenarios” but keeping them to myself I finally asked my husband “Is it crazy for me to worry that Dutch might jump up on the stove while we’re at work and set the house on fire or cause a gas leak?” to which my husband replied, “No, not at all, I’ve been on more than one fire started by a dog.” As a result, Dutch became the recipient of a nice big crate with lots of comfortable bedding for napping when nobody was home. Although I hated to crate an otherwise perfectly behaved dog, the thought of him putting himself and our other two dogs (and our home) in peril was worse than the crate.
Pet Fire Safety Awareness Day, which occurs on July 15 each year, is a day to remind other pet owners of measures to reduce the risk of pets starting a fire as well as to know what to do if a fire breaks out in your home and you are a pet owner.
According to Soraya McLaughlin, Public Education Specialist for the Naperville, Illinois Fire Department, pets start approximately 1000 fires annually. “The number one way they start is from the stove,” according to McLaughlin, “We have had fires happen when the homeowner leaves food on a plate, wrapped in plastic or not, on top of the stove and the pet jumps up to try to get it and turns on the stove.”
Candles are also a risk when used around pets. McLaughlin also relayed a story in which a cat jumped up on a surface that had a candle burning and the cat’s tail caught on fire. The cat ran under the couch and the condominium caught fire. The owner was displaced for over a year because of the extent of the damage.
McLaughlin’s suggestions for preventing pets from causing fires are to use childproof covers on the knobs of stoves, using flameless candles and pet proof screens for fireplaces. Also always cook with a three-foot child and pet free zone in the kitchen, although it is sometimes difficult to enforce.
There is also information on the Pet Fire Safety page of the Pet Sitters International site at this link: http://www.petsit.com/pet-fire-safety. The site includes information on preventing pets from starting a fire as well as keeping pets safe in the event of a fire.
You can also review a previous Canine Caviar blog about in which we spoke to Chelley Wilkes, a PetTech instructor, about National Pet Preparedness Month and how to handle emergency situations with pets. Wilkes suggests keeping leashes for each pet near each exit as well as in their sleeping area in case you need to exit quickly. She also suggests a slip leash over a regular leash as collars can easily slip off if the pet is frightened and tries to pull away. If your pets sleep in your bedroom Wilkes also suggests keeping a leash near the bedroom door in case an emergency in the middle of the night creates the need to exit quickly.