It’s raining and you are walking your dog downtown. Suddenly he yelps then collapses. Puzzled you grab your dog—then you feel a burst of electricity run through you. You too could get shocked, collapse and possibly die from electrocution from contact voltage.
What is contact voltage? In cities where there are electrical wires running under the sidewalk, stray voltage may occur due to deteriorating insulation, which causes metal objects to become energized. Wet pavement, especially when mixed with road salt can make these metal objects a hazard.
Contact voltage can range from a gentle shock to a burn, to electrocution. Fortunately, people wearing rubber-soled shoes are rarely at risk, but our barefoot dogs are. Booties do not usually protect dogs from shocks and could even make the situation worse if they are wet.
What should you do?
- DON’T GRAB YOUR DOG—this puts you at risk. Pull him off the site using a NYLON leash.
- If you suspect your dog was shocked—take him to the veterinarian immediately.
- Contact your local utility to fix the problem. If it is a severe shock, contact 911.
- Walk around metal objects during wet weather.
- If you notice melting snow around a metal object, this could indicate stray voltage.
- Don’t tie your dog’s leash to a metal object.
- Use a nylon leash and collar not a metal one on your dog.
- Wear shoes with rubber soles to protect yourself.
- Carry a cell phone with you to get help and report hazardous areas.
- Speak with other dog owners if you observe a problem area to warn them of the danger.
The overall risk is low, but be aware of this issue especially during wet weather.