How to keep pets safe and prepare for rattlesnake season around Phoenix

“We’ve lived here for two years,” Chris said. “And never had one back here.”
Published: Apr. 9, 2022 at 8:42 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 9, 2022 at 10:03 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s that time of the year when temperatures are rising, and rattlesnake sightings are becoming more and more common. These snakes can be dangerous for both humans and pets.

Phoenix residents Chris and Clare Treanor sadly saw that danger first-hand earlier this week. A rattlesnake bite killed Murph, one of their American Staffordshire Terriers. Their other dog Halo also was bitten but has made a nearly full recovery (at least physically). “It’s been horrible,” said Chris. “He [Murph] was a good boy.”

For nine years, Murph and Halo were living proof that opposites attract. “Murph is a pet dog,” he said. “He doesn’t want to go on walks, he’d rather watch TV. And Halo is a worker, non-stop. She’d play all day outside.” Two days ago, Halo got her way; both dogs were outside. But on this day, a rattlesnake joined them.

“We’ve lived here for two years,” Chris said. “And never had one back here.” Arizona Animal Experts’ Mark Hammond says most rattlesnakes aren’t looking for any confrontation. “Rattlesnakes are totally deaf,” Hammond said. “So, many times when snakes rattle it’s a defense mechanism.”

Rattlesnake training for dogs is a way to help both them and humans know when a snake is nearby. That way, everyone involved can keep their distance. Arizona resident Elissa Heimburger has had several of her dogs go through the training, which usually involves the dog wearing a shock collar while in the presence of a rattlesnake.

“As soon as the dog pays any kind of attention to the snake, they give them a shock,” Heimburger said. “And it usually only takes one or two times, and they’re trained. There was one time where there was one off the trail, and she steered clear.”

The Treanors took their dogs to training years ago and also say it worked. “I remember how afraid our dogs were when they say snakeskin, or smelled it,” Claire Treanor said. “They would run away.” But experts say, a refresher course for the dogs may be needed if too much time has passed.

“We got complacent,” Chris said. “Just thought it couldn’t happen to us,” Claire added. “And we learned it the hardest way you could learn it.”