Checking the Dog's Fence During a Home VisitIn Issue No. 7 of this series of articles, Suzie, our new rescue volunteer was learning how to do a good home visit. After completing the home visit, while writing up her report for her state coordinator, Suzie realized she hadn’t closely inspected the fence in the yard. Yes, she had seen the fence, and it had looked good from the porch where she had stood. Now she remembered what had happened: the applicant had asked Suzie a question about their dog crate, wondering if Suzie thought it would be large enough for an Airedale. At that point, applicant and Suzie had walked back into the house to look at the crate. Suzie now realized she had forgotten to go back to look more closely at the fence.
These errors of omission can be made by a new rescue volunteer, so as a helpful tool, Suzie could make a simple checklist for the next home visit. A small notebook containing one-word clues to jog her memory: sleep (where the dog will sleep); food (where and what the dog will be fed); fence (inspect the fence). You get the idea, Suzie can make a list of all the points she wants to be sure to inspect, and these points can each be triggered with a one-word clue.
An inspection of the fence that is meant to keep the rescue safely contained in his yard is an extremely important part of the home visit. First of all, what type of fencing is it? Wood or metal? If a wooden fence, is the wood still in good condition? Wooden fencing can begin to rot where it meets the ground. Does the wood come all the way to the ground? Is the bottom of the wood still good and solid, or is it beginning to rot? Are all the wooden slats or panels well secured, or are they beginning to come loose in some sections? Does it look like a dog could dig under it?
If a metal fence, what style is it? Are the openings large or small? Is it a type of fence that a clever dog could climb? This is important information for the volunteer who will be selecting a good rescue for this family. You certainly would not want to put a rescue that is a known climber or a digger into a yard with a fence that he could possibly climb over or dig under.
How tall is the fence? Here again, the agility of the rescue determines what height fence will contain him. A four-foot high fence may be fine for an older dog who is not a climber, or one with bad hips, but for a very tall rescue, or a known climber, it would probably not be safe. Also, check the top of the fence. Some people put barbed wire across the top of a fence, thinking it will keep a dog from crawling over it. Possibly it would, but it could also be a cause of some nasty wounds if a dog tried to crawl over the top and got badly ripped from those barbs.
Don’t forget to inspect the gates. Is the gate itself tall enough, and in good repair? Could the rescue climb over or under the gate? What is the distance from the fence to the gate, could a dog get through there? Check the locks/latches on the gates. Is it the type of latch that a clever Airedale could flip open? Some latches are the type that an Airedale’s nose could push up to open the gate. Does the latch/lock need to be repaired or replaced?
If necessary for utility service people to enter the yard to read meters, etc., ask the applicant how that is handled. Is the dog allowed to be in the yard on those occasions? What protection is there that the dog would not escape through an opened gate? It’s quite possible the home owner has not thought of this and a plan needs to be made.
What kind of neighborhood is it? Could children or others open the gate from the other side? If so, locks as well as latches should secure those gates.
As you see things that need to be repaired and/or replaced, point these items out to the applicant, and get his agreement to get them repaired/replaced prior to the arrival of an Airedale rescue. Write these items into your home visit report, so the coordinator will be able to double check to see that they have been done before a rescue is placed. What is the attitude of the applicant when you point out these items? Your coordinator will want to know if he is very agreeable, or if he is too casual, or resentful, and if he seems not agreeable to doing them.
Remember! Never feel shy about telling the applicant what needs to be done - it is the life of the rescue we are concerned about, and if the applicant is not as concerned, the coordinator needs to know that. Perhaps this is not a good applicant for an Airedale.
Now the big question: Would you leave your own dog in this yard and be confident he would be safe and not escape? Write that into your report too!
ART Newsletter Copyright 2010 by Sally Schnellmann and National Airedale Rescue. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden without the publisher's written permission.