Here's The Easiest Way To Keep Your Dog Alive Every Day
"Get that dog on a leash!" I yelled out at the man standing in his driveway. His dog had just stepped off the sidewalk and darted in front of my car.
It was close that time. I hit the brakes as I gasped and caught my breath. My stomach was in my throat ... again, as this was the second such encounter with this neighbor and his dog.
"I could have just hit your dog," I said.
The man seemed perturbed and answered, "It's none of your business. He's fine."
"If I had hit your dog he wouldn't be fine. And neither would I," I said. "Please get your dog out of the middle of the road before I call the police. There's a leash law for a reason."
There's a huge disconnect with people such as that neighbor, and that can be a problem.
Dogs running off leash in the road are not fine. It is my business. It's everyone's business. For one thing, there's a leash law in my city, Mesa, Arizona. And although leash laws vary depending on state, most have some type of leash law. Many also require collars and valid license tags as well.
In states that don't have statewide dog leash laws, known as "Running at Large Statutes," leash laws often are enacted at the local level.
These laws are not in place to piss off the public or your detached neighbors. These laws are in place for a variety of reasons that include protecting the public, protecting wildlife, protecting your dog and protecting other dogs, not to mention preventing car accidents. And maybe a lawsuit or two.
So with regard to my disinterested neighbor, yes, his off-leash dog is my business. I do not want to accidentally hit the man's dog. Not only would that hurt the dog physically, it would hurt me emotionally.
Everyone seems to know best. People tend to think their dog is the best trained dog in the world. Their dog is the dog who won't dart into traffic. Their dog is the one who won't jump up on someone who is frightened of dogs. (Believe it or not, some people just don't like dogs.) Their dog listens to commands no matter the situation - that is, of course, until the dog hears something far more intriguing than his person's voice. How about the dog who smells another canine dog who is in heat? Or the dog who smells food being cooked on a barbecue. Or the dog who just wants to visit the dog being walked on-leash across the street.
People can say they know their dogs well, but in the end, there is no way to predict what a dog will do in unexpected scenarios. "Dogs will be dogs," is a cliché that actually rings true. Throw out a command to a dog when there is a distraction, and that command may very well be ignored depending on whether your dog has a better offer.
No dog is 100-percent trained, according to Clarissa Fallis in her article "An Off-Leash Walk Ended in Tragedy for My Dog, and I Was Powerless to Stop It." Fallis, a dog behaviorist and trainer, lost her own well-trained dog when he decided to run across a busy street because he heard another dog. This was a first for him, but it would also be his last.
She wrote, "I called out every recall word I had for him and even threw in his favorite word, 'cookie.' It didn't work. I watched in horror as a gasoline truck ran him over. In an instant, he was dead."
Are a few minutes of off-leash time worth your dog's life?
There are countless reasons to make sure your dog is on a leash, until you reach the dog park or another safe, fenced-in area. Not only is it the law, but it can prevent anything from a dog fight or a dog bite to the death of your dog or a lawsuit if someone is accidentally bitten. Even if your leashed dog is friendly, what if you encounter an unfriendly dog off-leash, or even a coyote? Having control of your own dog is the best way to prevent an unwanted incident. The leash allows you to control your dog, evaluate the scenario and decide on best steps to remove yourself and your dog from the situation.
The news is filled with stories of unleashed dogs attacking both people and other pets. In a story out of Alaska in August, Anchorage assembly member Tim Steele's unleashed German shepherd attacked and killed an elderly, diabetic dog. The AP article reported that Kay Marshall, 71, was walking her Lhasa apso, Buttons, on a leash when she passed Steele's home. His off-leash dog, Bristol, ran across the street and attacked Buttons, who died from her injuries that night. Steele was fined $75. Although he admitted it was his fault and said he would pay Marshall's vet bills, it won't bring back Buttons. "Why doesn't everyone leash their dogs?" Marshall said. "My dog had no chance."
For people who want their dogs to be off leash, there are a variety of dog parks. Most parks have rules, but be careful. Even if it's an area where your unleashed dog is allowed, remember that you are putting your dog together with strangers, dogs you don't know. There could be a vicious dog in the mix, a scared dog, a dog who hasn't had vaccinations, a sick dog. The list goes on.
We love our dogs. They are family. But in the end, they are dogs. We don't speak their language, and we don't know what they are thinking. What's going to set off your dog or lead him to run and chase a cat on the other side of a busy street? We just don't know, and there's no surefire way to determine their next moves. If you love your dog, realize that a leash could save his life.
Find out more about your state's leash laws. You can always call your local humane society or police department for information or if you encounter an unleashed dog in your neighborhood.