Now that the weather is cooler, there will be an increase in outdoor activities for both families and pets. This means there's a greater chance that you may encounter an unfamiliar dog, with or without its owner.

Adults usually know to use caution when facing an unfamiliar animal, but a child’s instinct is usually to run up and pet the dog. This is not always a safe situation.

Not all pets are kid-friendly. It is important to teach children to always ask the owner before approaching an unfamiliar dog. While a dog may not be aggressive, it may bite out of fear if it is startled or made to feel uncomfortable.

A child should never approach a lost or stray dog. In addition, a child should never be left unattended with an animal, even a familiar pet. Young children can be rough with animals, and that may cause an otherwise friendly pet to bite if it is scared or hurt by the child.

Regardless of age, if approached by an unfamiliar dog, here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Do not run away. Dogs are faster than people, and if a person is running, the dog may think it is time to play chase. Instead, stand still.
  • Do not make eye contact with the dog but do keep it in your peripheral vision.
  • Do not scream or panic. This may startle the dog or cause it to react out of fear. Instead, be quiet and move away slowly.
  • Remain standing, if possible. If on the ground, curl up in a ball and cover the face and neck.
  • Try to put an object such as a purse, trash can or tree branch between you and the dog.
  • Seek shelter inside a nearby business or home if safety is an issue.

When walking pets, if a lost or stray dog approaches, it is best to avoid the situation. Although my instinct is to help a lost pet, if I have one of my dogs with me, it's not a safe situation.

The dynamic between a leashed dog and a loose dog can be tense, and if either animal is aggressive, the situation can quickly escalate into a fight.

It is better to bring the family pet home or to secure it in the car and then attempt to help the lost dog. If an injured animal is found, it is always best to call for help because an animal in pain also may bite out of fear.

In Orleans and Jefferson parishes, dogs are required by law to be on a leash when off the owner’s property. To report a stray or roaming dog, contact the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at (504) 368-5191, ext. 100. In Jefferson Parish, call (504) 736-6111 (east bank), or (504) 349-5111 (West Bank).


NOVEMBER: The Louisiana SPCA is reducing the adoption fee for cats and dogs ages 6 and up to $11 all month. The reduced adoption fee includes vaccinations, spay or neuter surgery, microchip, pet food and a free trial of pet insurance. To view the senior pets available for adoption, visit or visit the animals in person at 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd. in Algiers.

FRIDAY: The Louisiana SPCA’s 39th annual Howling Success Patron Party & Gala will transform the Hyatt Regency’s Empire Ballroom for an evening that’s "Out of This World." Visit for more information.

SATURDAY: From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Louisiana SPCA has an adoption event at PetSmart, 2900 S. Claiborne Ave. in New Orleans. Adoption counselors and volunteers will be on hand to help you select the right pet for your family. Call (504) 368-5191 or visit or more information.

SATURDAY: From noon to 3 p.m., Animal Rescue New Orleans has an adoption event at Whole Foods, 3520 Veterans Blvd., Metairie. Adoptable dogs and information on volunteering, fostering. For more information, email

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, send a photo, description of the pet, date lost/found and your contact info to In Jefferson Parish, send to and In St. Bernard Parish, send to

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For more information, visit