By April Boleware
I didn’t think it would happen, again. I thought, it’s an isolated incident and everything is fine. And then it wasn’t, it happened again. My dog was the victim of another dog off leash, and this time we ended up in the animal ER.
I wanted to write this article originally because the first time it seemed like something that needed some awareness brought to it. I had almost finished the article when it happened again. As I laid on the ground, sobbing, holding Evie, I knew then that this article had to be more than just a heads up to our leash laws. It needed to be eye opening and emotional because that’s what it’s going to take for people to realize how quickly a serious accident can happen.
I’ll start by saying that Evie is okay. We were lucky. My husband and I are worse off than she is I think. Emotionally and physically, we bear the scars of being accosted by an animal that clearly needed to be restrained.
The even more frightening part is, based on the feedback from the social media site Next Door, a lot of you have had similar experiences. I have read stories from people that are afraid to walk down their own street with their dog because people cannot leash their animals. There were even very honest posts from owners who said they had left their dogs on the porch with no lead but after reading the conversation thread they would no longer do this.
We are a huge community of dog lovers, cat lovers, even chicken lovers, so it stands to reason that anytime we can come together to protect our pets we would. I have heard so many dog owners say, “Oh my dog loves other dogs,” “My dog just lays around and wouldn’t hurt a fly,” “I’ve never had to put my dog on a leash.”
My favorite is the one at the dog park. There are clear signs marking the large dog side and the small dog side. These are separate for a reason. It never fails that someone with a tiny dog insists that their dog play on the large dog side. “My dog is great with large dogs, they’re used to them.” Unfortunately, mine is not. Now, we just don’t go to the dog park.
Chances are the person that came up with these rules has a reason for having them. Like requiring your dog to be on a leash. Now I know that some people are going to say that you are not required to leash your dog on your own private property, which is correct. However, the law also states that the owner must be in control of their dog at all times:
“Dog owners shall, at all times, keep their animals on a leash or other suitable restraint or confined by a fence on their property or the private property of another, with the permission of the owner of that property so as to prevent the animal from being at large, biting or harassing any person engaged in a lawful act, interfering with the use of public property or with the use of another person’s private property, or being in violation of any other section of this code. No animal shall be allowed to run at large even on the property of the owner of such animal, unless confined by a fence or other suitable restraint.”
I know as well as anyone that when another dog is around, keeping control of your pet on a leash is hard enough. If your dog steps off the grass and attacks, jumps on or accidentally harms another pet, you are liable. Unfortunately, so is your dog.
If the police are called and animal control comes out, you will be required to surrender your dog to animal control for a period of 10 days until they have determined that your pet can be released. This comes at the cost of the owner of the pet. They have the power to keep your dog if he/she is found to be violent.
Many of you shared that when you ran into a dangerous situation with another dog and their owner, you called the police but nothing ever came of it. The police are required to call animal control if an animal or person has been bitten and also must be present for animal control to come out. For us this process took three hours in the middle of the night. We were told that there is only one truck that works inside the city limits. It was a long night but worth it to drive home the point that this kind of negligent behavior will not be tolerated anymore.
Sadly, there were stories of people who had lost their pets due to people not leashing their dogs on the front porch. I do not think anyone leaves their pet off leash in the hopes that their dog will attack another. I think we all feel like our dogs should be able to relax and not feel confined. That’s the reason the off-leash dog park was created, to give pets a chance to run free, stretch their legs and mingle with other dogs. When taken out of their surroundings, most dogs are more social and find it easier to make new friends. However, on their home turf, a dog off leash can attempt to protect their yard from an unsuspecting dog walker before you can bat an eyelash. In the blink of an eye, your dog, your assets and anything else available to a court could all be gone. At a minimum, you are responsible for court costs and citation fines. If you are found to have a vicious dog that has attacked someone, you could even lose your home owner’s insurance. It’s just not worth it.
Accidents happen, everyone knows that. I’m not suggesting you call the police every time you see a dog off leash. What I am suggesting is that we as a neighborhood try to be better parents to our pets and protect them from themselves. They are still animals with very little understanding of the word consequence. I love my dog, I mean, love her. I would never put her in harm’s way. I also love other animals, and I would never want them to be hurt because of a senseless act. Having to try and pry another dog’s mouth off my dog’s throat was something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. This summer, do your dogs a favor, show them that you love them and put them on a leash. Even if you are just getting them into the car. All it takes is a second for an accident to happen. Susan Hesson said it best on Next Door, “A loved dog is a leashed dog.”