GRANT COUNTY — Washington State Patrol troopers deal with a myriad of tragic accidents, including deadly car crashes, but there’s a less-talked-about scene in Grant County that troopers often get called to handle: Dead or injured dogs on the side of the road.
In one area of I-90 alone, the few miles on either side of the Dodson Road exit between Moses Lake and George, troopers responded to around a dozen such cases last fall, said Trooper John Bryant, a public information officer with the WSP, in an interview Monday.
Among those dozen, around two or three were in good enough condition to be taken to a shelter, but Bryant couldn’t say for certain that even those survived long-term. The dogs weren’t abandoned on the side of the road, Bryant said, and many had collars, but without dog tags, law enforcement typically can’t locate the owner.
“That’s what the troopers that work that area are worried about — where are these dogs coming from?” Bryant said. “It’s farming out there in that area. Is there a certain ranch or farm out there with lots of dogs that just aren’t tracking them?”
When troopers respond to calls involving badly injured dogs, their options are often limited, Bryant said.
“We do what we can if the animals have a chance, but if the animals are suffering, and sometimes, you know, the whole backside is crushed, in that case we have procedures to dispatch the animal,” Bryant said. “No one likes doing that, but if it’s sitting there suffering, that hurts too.”
Most of the rest of the county doesn’t see quite as dramatic of a clustering of dogs on the side of the road, Bryant said, but they are a periodic call, including earlier in the day Monday. The number of dogs seriously injured or killed on the interstate or rural highways may be larger than what gets tallied, he added, as some may be able to crawl into a field before dying where they’ll never be found.
“Only a few people manage to stop and call it in, but most just keep on going,” Bryant said. “Some do call, and often feel really bad; and of course, you tell them, ‘It’s not your fault. If there’s a dog loose in the roadway, what are you going to do about it?’”
While Bryant doesn’t blame drivers for hitting dogs in the roadway, and cautions against trying to make sharp maneuvers while going 70 mph, there was one thing Bryant believed drivers could do to help prevent unnecessary deaths: Exercise caution.
“Any time you’re out here in eastern Washington, you gotta pay attention to the road, because any distraction will prevent you from seeing that dog, that deer, that hitchhiker,” Bryant said.
To the owners whose dogs get loose, Bryant was sterner.
“If you’re going to have dogs, you’ve gotta be responsible,” Bryant said. “When they’re younger, they still haven’t learned what their boundaries are. You’ve gotta be responsible, whether it’s with your children or with your animals — pay attention, and hopefully we can lessen what’s going on.”