We commend Deidre Pike for discussing the damage to marine mammals by dogs running loose on beaches ("Unleashed," March 7), and we commend the Journal for publicizing this long-standing problem.
Another serious result of allowing dogs to run free is that they chase birds. Birds have a very high metabolic rate and have to feed nearly continuously to get enough to stay alive. Migratory birds (sandpipers and sanderlings, ducks and geese) are close to their limits. They need to conserve energy, especially when they first arrive and must recover from long flights without food. All winter they need to spend as much time as they can resting and feeding, using as little energy as possible. In the spring they must store up reserves for both migration and breeding. They also molt then, and feathers are expensive. Birds cannot afford to waste time or energy.
When dogs chase birds (or people walk too close), they obviously don't want to fly. They run, or fly low, only far enough to feel safe. Flying from dogs wastes stored food and takes time away from feeding. We ask people not to let their dogs chase birds, but they answer, "It's fun for the dogs, and they never can catch them." Is it fun for the birds? Once we saw a very agitated pair of
Canada geese in the surf at Trinidad trying to lead their new goslings from an offshore rock to land, while people were letting their dogs run into the water to go after them. How can people can be so insensitive to other animals? It's not easy, being a bird. Please, please, dog owners, be considerate of other life and do not let your dogs chase birds.
Jim and Virginia Waters, Trinidad