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The Ruff Report: Ordinary household gadget can be deathtrap for pets

Every house and apartment has them, we enjoy them and use them every day. But this ordinary household gadget that lights up our lives so much also can have a dark side, because it can easily become a deathtrap for pets.

This seemingly harmless gadget is a window, and when left open, it can result in a curious pet jumping to its death or being severely injured, according to animal welfare experts. And this danger, best known as high-rise syndrome, is most likely to happen in warmer weather when unsuspecting pet parents open windows for a breath of fresh air.

"Many people don’t realize how curious cats and dogs can be around an open window,” Dr. Klein, supervising veterinarian at Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center, states in a media release. “Pets don’t have the same sense of danger that people have and are easily enticed by things they see outside. The results can be catastrophic.”

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Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York, says high-rise syndrome is easily prevented by simply installing a high-quality, sturdy screen.

“It is important for pet owners to realize that high-rise syndrome is 100 percent preventable," Dr. Murray states in a media release." The cost of a screen is far less than the thousands of dollars in emergency veterinary care, not to mention your pet’s pain and suffering, that could result from an easily avoidable high-rise accident.”

Small dogs and cats can slip through childproof window guards, so pet owners need to take special precautions and install snug protective screens, Dr. Louise Murray said.

Cats can be especially susceptible to high-rise syndrome, because they have little fear of heights and enjoy perching in high places, Dr. Murray said. “Cats who never leave their residence may not realize how high up they are. And if they are distracted by what’s going on outside, they can jump out of the window, or lose their balance and fall."

Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center offers these tips to protect pets from high-rise syndrome:
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended in rooms with open windows.
  • Don’t open windows wide enough for your pet to get through. Child safety locks can minimize how wide a window opens.
  • Keep furniture that your pet may climb on, such as couches and chairs, away from open windows. 
  • Opening windows from the top, not from the bottom, may help protect dogs.
  • Don’t solely rely on a screen to keep your pet safe. Larger dogs and cats have been known to jump through screens. 
  • Dogs and cats on a balcony or deck should be on a harness leash held by a responsible adult.

The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on


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