I found myself surprisingly infuriated when yesterday a friend told me about a near-attack from a vicious dog, with an even more vicious owner. According to him, he was out and about one day when an unleashed dog ran up to him, barking and snarling. In self-defense, he grabbed his can of pepper spray, whereupon the dog’s previously-absent owner appeared and threatened to beat our friend if he sprayed the dog. We said both dog and owner should have been sprayed, but quite honestly, had the dog gone through with its attack, it would be facing a worse fate that a faceful of pepper spray. A cheap $5 leash and a conscientious owner prevents all sorts of tragedy, as I can relate below.
This story came on the heels of a genuine dog attack on my friend Chris’ dog in North Las Vegas. She has a dog named Sydney rescued from an abusive situation, who is more than a little neurotic. I’m convinced that if Sydney were a human being, she’d be on massive anti-depressants and in serious therapy. As a dog living in a modest household, all she can get is love and care.
So as Chris was walking Sydney (yes, on a leash) one day, they passed another family with a pitbull. The pitbull was on a leash, but when it lunged at Sydney, the owner, on a bicycle, toppled over and lost control. By the time Chris and the owner had managed to pull Sydney out of the pitbull’s jaws, Sydney had massive injuries, and Chris was traumatized. The pitbull’s owners paid for Sydney’s veterinary care, and Sydney and Chris will eventually heal, though the shock of it will stay with both forever.
The pitbull’s owners said their dog had been a friendly family pet up to that moment, and I believe that may have been the case. But the pitbull suddenly saw a threat to its family, and without being under control of a human who could judge the situation in the human context, the attack happened. Animal control stepped in to make sure the pitbull had had its vaccinations, especially against rabies, as well as quarantine Sydney and the household for 1o days.
For losing control of the leash, the pitbull’s family is in its own world of hurt. They can either have their dog put down, or pay a massive fine to keep that dog. Beyond that fine, they have to put a muzzle on their dog whenever it goes out in public, sterilize and microchip the dog, post a sign on their domicile announcing they have a vicious dog (maybe not a downside in North Las Vegas), and buy and carry proof of a $100,000 personal liability insurance. And if that dog ever bites or threatens any creature again, it’s a guaranteed death sentence.
So why in the world would anyone want to let their dogs go about unleashed, in a public space? And furthermore, threaten those who object to the potential danger? Peter and I sometimes see unleashed dogs in the neighborhood, but they’re on their owner’s property, friendly, and under voice command. If you want your dog to have the unleashed experience, San Jose (and I’m sure other municipalities) have dog parks, and there are other specified areas where dogs may run free, and people may avoid. And yes, even in the dog parks, your dog should be able to play well with others, so if your dog can’t do that, your dog’s either going to have to learn, or put up with the leash. In all these situations, dogs are dogs: they all have the potential to freak out and bite someone, and it’s the owner’s responsibility to prevent that by all means possible. The consequence of not doing so is death for your dog, and in my opinion, that’s a lot worse than just having to put a leash on your dog when you go out.