Properly disposing of plastic containers can save pet lives
By Sherri Goodall
Photos Courtesy of Oklahoma Alliance for Animals
Look at the picture on the left, then look at the picture on the right.
Thankfully, the photo on the right is Jake (aka Jughead) today—a handsome fellow with a loving future and a new name.
The photo on the left is Jake with a plastic food container stuck around his neck when he was spotted several days in a row by concerned folks in North Tulsa last November. But then, he went missing for three to four days.
“Rescuers who had been searching the area were getting desperate and starting to worry,” recounted Erin Shackelford, executive director of Oklahoma Alliance for Animals.
They didn’t think he would last much longer.
“Finally, Jake was seen again! With the new sighting, lots of volunteer rescuers, including those from Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, met up and formed a plan to flush him out of the wooded area where he was hunkering down.”
Jan Lavender, one of the OAA volunteers, was searching an abandoned shed when Jake darted out. She unsuccessfully attempted to catch him, and he went straight for the woods where another volunteer spotted him. His jug was so dirty that he didn’t see her, and she tackled him to the ground. The jug slid off his head with ease, and even though he was terrified, he never showed any aggression.
He allowed rescuers to scoop him up and take him to the vet to be checked out where he was also pumped full of IV fluids. Although not hostile, he had completely shut down; he wouldn’t make eye contact, he suffered anxiety, and lost bowel and bladder control. He obviously was a stray with no collar or chip.
By the time he was caught, Jake was skin and bones. Heartbreaking, right? The only answer to why he survived is that the jug had an opening at his neck where he could drink water and maybe eat tiny bits of food. The jug was a discarded Cheese Puff container minus the lid.
The saddest part of this story is that it could have been avoided.
Do we as responsible humans understand the danger of discarded plastic jugs, plastic bags, snack bags, aluminum or glass containers with openings large enough for even a 50-pound pet to get his head stuck? And, if we do understand, what can we do about it?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), when a dog or cat puts its head inside a soft bag of snacks (chips, etc.) and inhales, the bag collapses, and in under five minutes, the animal can suffocate to death. Between 2014 and 2018, the AMVA conducted a survey. It determined that nearly 1,400 pets suffocated in snack bags, dog food/treat bags, bread bags, plastic containers or some other discarded item. Many of these items were left on counters, tables or by trash receptacles where pets could easily get to them.
How can you help avoid another scenario like this one?
- Store food in a container with a small hole.
- Crush large plastic jugs. If that isn’t possible, at least put the lid back on securely.
- Serve snacks in a bowl rather than a snack bag.
- Cut snack bags, plastic storage bags, bread bags, etc., along the bottom and sides before disposal. Then, discard them into a covered trash bin.
- If you don’t have time to cut the bags, tie them in a knot.
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Shackelford has housed Jake in her home since Dec. 8 of last year. He is still learning to fully trust; he’s slowly blossoming and coming out of his shell. He’s now seeking more attention with humans and cuddling with Shackelford on the couch. While he still has some progress to make, Jake is on his way to becoming a happy-go-lucky dog.
During my interview, Jake watched me closely with his hypnotic golden eyes. I held some cheese snacks in my hand, and he finally succumbed to the temptation, making us fast friends. I wish I could have taken him home with me. The good news is you or another loving family can because Jake is available for adoption. He would be happiest in a family with other dogs. (Jake loves his foster siblings). Older children would be less scary for him.
About Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (OAA)
OAA is dedicated to reducing pet overpopulation, encouraging responsible pet ownership and promoting the humane treatment of animals through community collaboration and education. Alta Vista Veterinary kindly offers boarding for strays in the care of OAA, which are heartworm and fecal tested and spayed or neutered. The goal of OAA is to find foster and adoptive families for homeless pets. They also arrange for animal transport to other states. To see animals available for adoption or for more information, visit animalallianceok.org.