NEWS

Metal dog cages a hazard, vet ambulance service says

03/05/2013 12:20 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT
The collapsible metal cages used by many dog owners to house their furry friends can cause serious injuries, according to a Montreal-based animal rescue service.

K-911 Animal Ambulance responds to about a dozen cases a year where dogs have trapped their toes or paws in the metal, foldable cages.

Often, when the pet paramedics arrive, the dog is in so much pain they have to cut the cage with bolt cutters.

Metal caught in dog's paw

Carolyn Lobb spent more than an hour trying to free her Siberian husky's paw after the dog got it stuck in one of the metal squares of her cage in Lobb's West Island home last Feb. 22.

"I hear her wailing, excruciatingly, and it didn't sound good," the Kirkland resident said.

She said the normally gentle dog got increasingly panicked and aggressive as time dragged on, and Lobb's efforts to extricate the paw failed.

Eventually, Lobb called the veterinary ambulance service.

"They had to basically cut the metal out of the cage, and there's a piece of metal [about 15 centimetres long] that they had to cut out of her foot to get her free," Lobb said.

K911's co-founder Rodney McLean said it's not uncommon for dogs to rip out their nails on the cages. He said sometimes they have to remove toes, and they have even seen dogs get their jaws trapped on the bottom of the cages.

"It's a death trap," he said.

"That dog could be stuck in that cage from 10 in the morning with his nail or his jaw stuck in the cage."

McLean said when dogs are locked in cages for hours at a time, they get restless and that's how they injure themselves.

"People work seven to ten hours a day out of the house and these animals are left in the cage, unsupervised."

Elaine Madore, a surgeon at the Montreal DMV veterinary centre, said it's not unusual for her to treat dogs and cats who have been injured in metal cages.

Sometimes the pets have a minor fracture, but other times the injuries are serious enough to require amputation. The cost for treatments can range between $100 and $1000 depending on the severity.

"For sure [the cages] can be dangerous," she said. "But it's also very difficult to choose the right cage, because it depends on the size of the patient – cat or dog."

She said it's best if people can avoid metal cages altogether, but if they are necessary then pet owners should make sure their animals' paws can't fit underneath the cage's door.

Train dogs for crates, manufacturer advises

As for Roxy's owner, she would like to see the metal cages banned from the marketplace.

The cages are made by several manufacturers.

Midwest Homes for Pets, the US company that made the one Lobb purchased, sold 78,000 24-inch to 48-inch metal crates like Lobb's last year.

Marketing manager Tara Whitehead said the company takes every incident seriously, but she insists metal crates can be used safely.

"I would just question everyone purchasing one for their dogs," she added. "Pick the right style, size, wire gauge and then properly train their pet to utilize the crate."

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