Pet owners need to take special precautions around their inground swimming pool

Pet owners need to take special precautions around their inground swimming pool

Pools and Pets

by Bob Lyons, Terrapin, Ottawa


Though largely unreported, accidental drowning of a pet in the family pool is common. “Both the numbers and the circumstances of the pet drowning stories I’ve been getting over 10 years leave me in no doubt about this,” says Bob Lyons, President of Terrapin and inventor of Safety Turtle. With a growing pet population – there are roughly 60 million dogs and 67 million cats in North America – and approximately 450,000 new pools per year, accidental pet drowning will continue to rise unless something changes. 41.3% of pool owners have at least one pet. Action is long overdue.”

Although most healthy dogs [some breeds excepted, due to density] and cats have an innate ability to swim short distances, escape from a pool may be a life and death struggle. Barking is often difficult once the pet is in the water. The untrained animal instinctively heads for the closest edge of the pool and tries to claw its way out. Clawing on concrete breaks nails to the quick, worsening panic. Water is ingested and breathing laboured. The animal is exhausted within minutes.

Very young, very old, and handicapped animals are most at risk of accidentally falling in a pool. A healthy animal who has escaped a close call won’t go near the pool, but this is rather cruel training.

While animals can be progressively trained to head for steps at the shallow end, if they exist, the steps may be too high for a smaller animal. Steps below the water line are invisible, so an untrained animal will never recognize them as an exit, particularly in an emergency. Vinyl-liner pools offer no grip to the animal, and often include only a vertical ladder, which is nearly impossible for most pets to climb or cling to. Most vinyl-liner pool builders have the experience of repairing foot-long holes through pool liners at the waterline caused by a front paw of the owner’s canine.

“When the solar cover is on a pool, it is one of the most dangerous times for pets. They either fall on the cover, or try to walk on it, and go under and can’t get back up,” said Gae Horrigan, dog and pool owner from LaMarque, Texas. “We know first hand the heartbreak people experience when they lose a pet to drowning. It’s like losing your child. Today, having the Safety Turtle is our way of trying to make sure this will never happen again to our beloved Westies, Duke and Tammy.”

If you are a pet owner with a pool, ask yourself:

Is escape from the pool possible for my pet?

Can my pet swim?

Is my pet trained to escape?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “no”, then rescue of the animal within 2 – 5 minutes may be life critical.

If you swim [or contemplate swimming] in the pool with your pet, and the pet gets out unassisted, drowning prevention is not likely a concern. But be aware that pool chemicals, notably chlorine, are much more harmful to pets [and infants] who may ingest them. A salt chlorinator or ozonator is an appealing remedy, but don’t forget to shock the pool after you are finished for the day.

About Safety Turtle for pets

The Safety Turtle system for pets consists of a small, color-coded Turtle sensor that attaches to the pet’s collar, and a Base Station. When the pet falls or ventures into the water, an ear piercing alarm is instantly sounded at the house [or boat] from the Base Station – allowing the owner to immediately respond to the distressed animal. One Base Station works with any number of pets having the same color of Turtle sensor. Rain or ground moisture doesn’t set off the alarm.

For more information, visit

About Skamper-Ramp

Skamper-Ramp is a patented water-escape device for pools, docks, and boats, that gives animals a way to exit the water on their own. It’s available in two sizes, for animals up to and over 45 lbs.

For more information, visit