Please allow this open letter to serve as my finger-wagging, tongue-clicking disapproval of those of you who have such disregard for your city’s or county’s leash law. A little background is, of course, helpful for you to understand my displeasure with your ignorance.
Located a short 1/2 mile from my house is a park which I frequent with Luna almost daily. This wooded park has trails throughout, with signs reminding pet owners to obey the leash law and pick up after their dogs. Within the park is a very large fenced dog park, which is the only off-leash area in the park. It’s quite nice really, with mulch, benches, a wooded area, free “green” plastic bags for cleanup, and even a doggie water fountain.
This past weekend, while walking Luna on one of the smaller trails, we heard an animal running up to us from behind. Now, to put our surprise into perspective, in addition to signs about the leash law and cleaning up after your pet, there are also posted signs about black bear sightings. Did I believe this was a bear coming to maul us to death? No. Was I concerned anyway? Yes.
Turns out, it was a senior dog – off leash – and with an owner nowhere in sight. My husband ran interference while I hurried Luna along. This unleashed dog was quite persistent, brushing past my husband, wanting to meet Luna. Let’s make it clear that I did not know this dog: I had no idea what his/her temperament was like or if he/she was up to date on vaccinations. I didn’t even have the benefit of an owner saying “Oh, it’s okay, he/she is very friendly” (which I would have taken with a grain of salt anyway, not knowing this dog). Ultimately, a man on a bicycle rode by, calling for his dog to follow him. Was his dog likely harmless, wanting to just say ‘hi’ to Luna? Absolutely. Does it excuse his owner’s responsibility to leash his dog? Not one bit.
To further put things into perspective, my first grey, Ruby, was attacked by our neighbor’s English Bulldog on Father’s Day in 2008. Ruby was on a leash and our neighbor’s dog was not. My daughter had taken Ruby outside, hanging out in our backyard essentially on the property line, letting our neighbor’s 3 year old son pet Ruby (with his big sister, my daughter’s friend, also there). Ruby was a very gentle dog, very quiet, and wouldn’t bat an eye if her ears were pulled or her tail was yanked. She would always just stand there and kindly “take it.” Apparently, the English Bulldog got a bit jealous that Ruby was getting so much attention from the toddler, and he lunged at her, biting her front leg and her tail. We had to take Ruby to the Emergency Veterinarian, and found out that the bite on her leg missed her saphenous vein by sheer millimeters. Five staples, hundreds of dollars, an elizabethan collar, a course of antibiotics, and many weeks later, Ruby healed physically. Emotionally, she was fearful of little kids and other dogs, so we had to retrain her. Ruby was left with a scar on her front leg, and we were left with a ruined relationship with our neighbor, who believed he did not need to pay anything toward our veterinary bill (but his wife, thankfully, felt otherwise and ultimately paid half).
Fast forward to this dog encroaching on Luna’s and my personal space this past weekend, while Luna is essentially trapped by her leash, and you can appreciate my frustration. This was not the first time Luna and I were approached by an off-leash dog. About two months ago, two large unleashed dogs ran up to her (in the same park) and proceeded to invade her space. Luna freaked out, trying to get away while I tried to calm her and keep the other dogs at bay. The owner of the dogs did nothing; she didn’t even call her dogs off. As the owner approached us, her two dogs left Luna to follow her. Once again, I didn’t know these dogs or this person.
So here I am, quite bitter and frustrated by people who feel they can simply ignore the leash law, especially with an off-leash dog park just a few hundred yards away.
You may know your dog. You may think that it’s not harmful if your dogs are running around off leash. But did you ever stop to think that your off-leash dog may cause my leashed dog to lash out in fear and hurt your dog? Who is responsible for the vet bill then? Surely not me. What if my dog yanks her leash free from my hands and runs away? Are you going to help find and bring my dog home? What if, as she is running away, she gets hit by a car? Will you cover that vet bill, or better yet, will you explain to my children why their dog is dead?
You don’t know my dog. My dog was found on the streets of South Korea and taken to a shelter where she was to be sold for dog meat. I rescued her, and have trained her to be a loving, obedient dog. She has no visible scars or signs of abuse and she behaves well when I take her to the greyhound dog park where all of them are required to wear muzzles. I don’t, however, know what she had to endure while she was on the streets of South Korea, fending for herself. I don’t know what emotional scars she carries with her. She does have separation anxiety. Obedience training has brought her a long way, but she is still learning. She does very well on a leash, and if she pulls toward you, it’s to lick you and say ‘hello.’ And while my dog may be a bit nervous or anxious when confronted by other dogs, why should I have to pay for your ignorance and irresponsibility because you don’t want to leash your dog, in direct contravention to the leash law?
After Ruby was bitten, I told my family that I would not hesitate to get between my dog and any other dog that was attacking her. Your dog may be the most docile creature on this planet. However, if I have to step between my dog and yours to defend her, and your dog bites me, I will report your dog as a vicious animal. I do not like conflict; I will choose to run as opposed to fight. My dog, however, depends on me to defend her. If you don’t want your dog to have a history of aggressive or vicious behavior with the local police, then I suggest you keep your dog on a leash. It’s the law, and you are not above it.