The Jan. 6 Travel section featured a full-page promo for Florida titled “Pup Paradise” and showed a photo of a woman tossing a tennis ball for her dog to fetch in the waters at St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately, a dog’s paddling action in swimming is a come-on for sharks, as its rhythmic sound draws them to the dog. Bull sharks are a close-to-the-shore species and are responsible for the majority of attacks on humans in U.S. waters. Most of these nonfatal attacks occur in shallow water on people playing in waist-deep water. Throwing a ball for your dog to fetch is a tragic way to watch your pet disappear. Some books on sharks advise against the practice. Apparently, the author of the article wasn’t aware of this.
Fresh water in Florida isn’t any better unless you want to watch your dog being taken by a gator. A friend living on the Intercoastal Waterway in northeast Florida tells me it’s not uncommon for dogs to go missing and he’s watched water skiers go right past gators they’ve never even seen. Gators also come up on shore and take pets. Visit Florida but keep your dog away from the water.