Please Ask Before You Touch Or Feed A Stranger's Pet
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Dear Animal Lovers, If You Really Love Them, Ask Before You Touch Or Feed A Stranger's Pet

This does not just apply to dogs specifically. You need to ask permission with any type of pet.

Dear Animal Lovers, If You Really Love Them, Ask Before You Touch Or Feed A Stranger's Pet

Imagine this: You're going on a hike with some friends, and somewhere along the way, you see an adorable dog on a leash being walked by someone you can only assume is its owner. The first thought that comes to mind is, "Oh my goodness! Look at that good boy!"

You go over to the owner and dog, saying hello to the person before reaching down to pet the beautiful creature that is a dog.

But instead of being happy to see you, the dog snaps at the air around your extended hand without warning and cowers away from you.

What did you do wrong? Well, first off, you didn't ask.

Failing to ask a pet owner for permission to pet or feed an animal may not seem like a substantial problem for a lot of people, but for the animals that have been wrongly approached by a complete stranger, it is a substantial problem.

In the past few years, pet adoption has been on the rise. Of course, this is a fantastic change to the past perspective on animal shelters being lowly and miserable places, where the animals that end up in a shelter are neglected and mentally damaged beyond repair.

Up until the early 2000s, people typically tried to avoid shelters and went to breeders, due to this socially constructed perspective. Thankfully, rescuing animals has become more popularized due to pop culture media putting a large spotlight on "feel good" pet adoption stories.

Animal shelters and rescues definitely are not home only to animals that are damaged beyond repair. However, a lot of these animals being adopted do tend to have baggage.

This baggage can include not only fears and insecurities of certain objects, but also being approached by strangers. Unfortunately, this makes sense when you consider that an enormous majority — if not all — animal abuse is due to less-than-desirable human interactions between pets and humans.

A lot of these pets are going to be afraid of people to some degree, and trauma has a nasty way of sticking around for long bouts of time after the trauma occurred.

My first horse was terribly abused by her breeder, and even years after her abuse occurred, we would put tremendous effort into keeping strangers from touching her ears. It was truly obvious in her younger years that she was hit multiple times on her face. Although she was relatively fine with a familiar person touching her ears and the top of her head, she would still shy away from hands belonging to the most genuine of folks.

Even animals that were not inherently abused still have their quirks and insecurities that need to be respected when you are, in fact, a total stranger to them.

An example is my two-year-old border collie, Enzo. He is a lovely dog, but he has an immense desire to protect my family and I — especially when we are around strangers. Enzo has enriched my life in more ways than I can explain, and he never once knew a cruel hand, but he will growl at anyone who approaches us too quickly. He will go so far as to place himself in between myself and a stranger as they are approaching and stare at them with such an intensity that can only be described as a "Do not mess with me" type of stare.

Many times I have to tell these well-meaning strangers, who only see an adorable dog, that they can not pet him because strangers make him uncomfortable outside of the house.

If you ask and the owner says no, trust me, they have a reason — which they honestly do notneed to explain to you.

Why don't they need to explain? Because it's their pet, and the fact that not every pet wants to be touched by a stranger, or could potentially not be able to eat certain treats, needs to be respected no matter the reason.

If they say no and that's all they say, back away. There are plenty of other pets in the world to be blessed with your kindness. Don't be offended when a pet owner tells you no.

Now, are you a bad person if you have approached a pet, assuming it was going to be friendly and either pet it or fed it? No, you definitely are not a bad person. It is OK if you didn't know, and thankfully, a significant amount of animals are happy to be approached by amazing people like yourself!

But you have potential to cause more damage than good if you pet or feed a pet without the owner's permission. It is a substantial problem for a large percentage of pets that are not comfortable with being approached by strangers, as well as for the pets that have dietary restrictions that can result in major (and fatal) problems for them.

Considering this is a living being, why take the risk of causing some sort of damage when all you really need to do is ask if it is OK? You can stop that damage from occurring when you ask and the owner says no!

An overwhelming complaint in the equestrian community is strangers feeding people's horses without permission, particularly when the horses are out in the field and happen to be near the fence. Horses need a lot of room to thrive, and most of the time, their owners can not watch them 24/7. (But gosh darn it, we sure do try. These are our babies!)

I have no doubts that all of these strangers are good people who are simply ignorant to how easily horses can get sick.

In the UK, a well-meaning stranger fed a young foal cut-up turnips. The foal choked, and had to be euthanized. His life was cut tragically short due to ignorance. Feeding too many treats to horses, especially foals that don't have their baby teeth is incredibly dangerous and can cause not only choking, but metabolic episodes for horses with bodies that cannot process sugar.

Any horse can also colic or founder if they eat grass clippings due to the intense expansion that occurs in the stomach, as well as the incredibly high sugar content in grass clippings.

Are pet owners asking strangers to automatically know which animal has dietary restrictions or insecurities about strangers? No, they're not.

What they are asking, however, is that you ask. And if the owner is not present, don't pet or feed any animal that you are not familiar with.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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