That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but sadly, it probably will. Your dogs aren’t people. They don’t have people-rights. They don’t have people-privileges. They aren’t as important as people. They are certainly not more important than people. There are laws and ordinances that govern their behavior and yours (as it relates to them) in public.
Our state’s laws only cover dangerous animals or animals with the potential to be dangerous, which, sadly, most people don’t seem to think includes their precious Poochie-poo, no matter how many times he’s “nipped” someone. Our county, however, has clearly deliniated leash laws:
(a)(1)It shall be unlawful for the owner of any animal to permit such animal to be out of his immediate control and restraint, or to be left unattended off the premises of the owner, or to be upon the property of another person without the permission of the owner or person in possession of such other property. For the purposes of this chapter, condominium and apartment common property shall not be considered to be the premises of the animal owner. Voice control does not constitute control of an animal.
(A)(2)b. When off the premises of the owner, all animals shall at a minimum be maintained on an appropriate chain, leash or tie not exceeding 6 feet in length, and in the hands of a person who possesses the ability to restrain the animal.
There’s no ambiguity about this. We have several enclosed, off-leash dog parks within the area. There’s no excuse for a dog to be loose at a public park, period. Except the two women who brought their dogs to Noonday Park during homeschool soccer still didn’t seem to get that. They were there at the same time, but not together. The older woman (who sounded South African) had two small terrier-type dogs, off leash. The younger woman (maybe late 30s, early 40s) had a very large German Shepherd. I spoke with both women about their dogs being off leash. Both women didn’t seem to think the rules should apply to them. Both got pissy about being asked to put their dogs on leash in accordance with ordinance.
Understand, homeschool soccer has probably 150 children ranging in age from 3 to late teen, plus parents with infants and toddlers. The children are running around, shrieking with joy, kicking balls. Even under the best of circumstances, a strange dog doesn’t need to be off leash around children. These are not the best of circumstances for dogs. These are the circumstances that send what I’m sure are otherwise perfectly lovely dogs into a frenzy when their owners walk them (leashed) around the park during soccer time. I’ve seen some dogs freak the hell out, sometimes just from the activity noise, sometimes because, well, walk a cute doggy into a field full of little kids, and the kids will swarm.
Here are our case studies for today:
Woman #1: Her dogs were sniffing around some smaller children, whose game had just finished. Some of the kids were petting the dogs, others were shrinking away. Not every kid likes dogs. Not every parent encourages her children to touch strange dogs. I told the woman, “Your dogs need to be on their leashes. It’s the law, and this park is full of children playing soccer.” Her response, “It’s fine. We’re walking in the other direction from them,” and proceeded to walk through the group of children and parents, calling her dogs in a high-pitch “come here precious voice” and did not put them on a leash.
Woman #2: Was present when I asked the first woman to leash her dog, though wasn’t with Woman #1. Ignored me. I approached her directly after the kids were in the car (because, frankly, he dog was bigger than all three of the small children, was in fact bigger than two of them combined.) I used the same language. “Your dog needs to be on a leash. The park is full of small children and there are leash laws.” She just stared at me, so I thought, ok, maybe she a) doesn’t get it or b) thinks I’m insulting her dog, so I said, “He may be a very nice dog, but some children are afraid of dogs. He needs to be on a leash or you could be fined.” She stared at me some more and finally said something to the effect of what I’m saying may be true, but she doesn’t like my tone. She didn’t put the leash on. In fact, she didn’t even have a leash on her. She continued scolding me on my tone and I finally interrupted and said, “Look lady, I don’t care if you like my tone or not, because you’re the one breaking the law here, not me. Get your dog on the leash.” I got in my car and she kept glaring at me, but took her dog by his collar and hauled him to her car.
Look folks, I obviously like dogs enough to, you know, freaking OWN one, but I don’t think my dog is special enough to break the law/ordinance. Hell, regardless or ordinance, I don’t think my dog has rights equal to or greater than the rights of a person. A park full of small kids? NOT A PLACE FOR YOUR OFF LEASH ANIMAL. Your dog isn’t another child who wants to play with my child. Your dog is a dog. However much you love your dog, however smart your dog, animals sometimes act unpredictably and I don’t want my child, someone else’s child, or my/someone else’s appropriately restrained animal to be the victim of your unrestrained animal’s first (or second, etc.) freak out. And if you don’t like my tone, you can pack up your punkin feelings with your unleashed dog and go the frak home.
Put your goddamn dogs on a leash when they’re out of your house. It’s common freaking courtesy. It’s also the law or county ordinance in most places.