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Protect your pets from animal attacks

GREENFIELD — Aimee Prunier was at her Greenfield home when her 3-year-old orange tabby cat ran outside to the backyard.

A few hours later on that July 4 night, Prunier heard piercing screeches that sounded like an animal fight. When Prunier rushed outside, she found her cat, Tai, lying on the grass, wounded and bleeding.

Tai died in Prunier’s car as she attempted to rush him to the Veterinary Emergency and Speciality Hospital in South Deerfield.

Veterinarians said the bite wound could have been caused by either a raccoon or fisher attack.

“It only takes that one time,” Prunier said. “If your pet escapes at night, go out and find him.”

Earlier that same week, Hershey, a 6½-year-old miniature dachshund, had also been playing outside her Hadley home at around 9 p.m. when her owners, Cathleen Robinson and Raymond Brown, heard a dog yelping and barking.

After finding Hershey injured, Robinson and Brown saw a coyote run behind the garage. They rushed Hershey to the Veterinary Emergency and Speciality Hospital, where, due to the severity of her injuries, they made the call to let her go.

“We miss her so much,” said Robinson, whose eyes fill with tears as she recounts the loss.

The pet owners shared their experiences with local media to warn others about the dangers of letting pets roam at night.

While local police and the state Environmental Police do not have statistics on how often pet attacks from wild animals occur, such attacks on small pets do occur.

In Greenfield, the animal control officer Calin Giurgiu said this year the town had at least two attacks from a fisher, a member of the weasel family.

Dr. Erika Mueller, owner of the South Deerfield veterinary hospital, said she rarely sees coyote attacks on pets, with more frequent confirmed cases of attacks by bears and fishers.

“The biggest problem is we don’t know what injured most of them,” Mueller said.

Dr. Danielle Thomas, the Emergency and Critical Care Department head at the South Deerfield emergency hospital, said wild animals can be found anywhere from the urban areas of Greenfield and Northampton to the rural towns of Rowe and Colrain.

“Any time it is dark out, you have to assume something could happen,” Thomas said.

Amy Mahler, assistant press secretary for state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, offered tips for keeping pets safe.

Tips

The most basic tip is to keep pets inside after dark.

For coyotes, in particular, Marion Larson, chief of information and education for the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, recommended that owners of small dogs should be outside with them because coyotes are unlikely to attack when humans are involved, with just five documented attacks in Massachusetts in 50 years.

Thomas said dogs should be kept on leashes anytime it is dark out when they can’t be watched.

“When it is dark out, wild animals will feel safe coming out,” Thomas said.

“Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, we suggest a leash to keep pets restrained,” Mahler said.

Often, wild animals, like coyotes, foxes or fishers, view cats and dogs as competition for food or prey.

Other tips from the state Department of Fish and Game:

∎  Do not feed wildlife, which can alter the animal’s normal behavior.

∎  Do not feed pets outdoors, which can attract other animals to your door.

∎  Keep trash and garbage around your yard contained and picked up. Unsealed trash attracts wildlife, which is most active at night.

∎ Remove bird feeders, which can attract small wild animals like chipmunks, which in turn attract the larger wild animals.

For more information, visit the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs at: http://goo.gl/a8nz0g

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