Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wet n’ Wildlife: Pool Safety for Animals

Backyard swimming pools are synonymous with summer fun, but not for everyone. Swimming pools can be deadly for pets and wildlife.

According to the most recent statistics, there are more than 8 million swimming pools in the U.S., and an estimated 1 of every 1,027 pets drown in pools each year. Yet, this tragic figure doesn't account for the tens of thousands of wild animals that suffer the same fate.

"We hear about pool drownings through our wildlife hotline," says Laura Simon, field director for The HSUS' urban wildlife program, "and it is tragic, because these events are preventable." All types of animals, from skunks to mice, ducks, fledgling birds, lizards, chipmunks, frogs and snakes can find themselves in a pool with no lifeline or firm footing. Especially at risk are the wild animal babies who are curious and fall in.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends a few simple pool precautions that can help you dramatically lower the risk of pets and wildlife drowning in pools:

Don't leave your pets unsupervised in a yard with a pool.
When building a pool, design lounge ledges along the sides. These are usually just below the water's surface and allow animals shallow areas from which to drink and an easy escape route from the water.
Install a fence around the pool to keep out animals such as dogs.
Install one or more water-exit devices such as the Skamper-Ramp (skamper-ramp.com/home.asp?pid=1) or Frog Log (froglog.us). Both are buoyant devices that are placed in the water along the pool's edge and allow animals to get out on their own. Because of their white color they are highly visible to animals.
Disperse knotted nylon ropes at strategic locations along the sides. Make sure the knot is at the water's surface so the animal can more easily climb out. (This technique only works for climbing animals such as raccoons, mice and squirrels).

The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns. The program's book, Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife (December 2007, Humane Society Press) is a useful reference for individuals and communities faced with resolving encounters with wild animals who find their way into yards, gardens, houses, parks and playgrounds.

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