dogs need to be under control

While I don’t hate dogs, I don’t trust them, which means I try to avoid them. A well-trained and controlled dog is a delight and pleasure and can fill people’s lives with joy and companionship. An erratic or aggressive dog can be a nuisance and irritant, or worse, a danger to those unlucky enough to be around at the wrong time and place.

I once watched a father lay back on the grass while his two children played on the school swings. Two unleashed dogs entered the park from the far end of the field followed by their owner, who wasn’t even carrying a leash. The two dogs ran across the field and jumped on the unsuspecting man who then jumped up in fear. The dog owner laughed! “What’s the matter?” she quipped, “Scared of dogs?” He yelled back, “No, I’m not scared of them, but I certainly don’t like being jumped on by two of them!”

At this point, St. Albert does not have an official dog park. This means that all public areas belong to humans first, controlled pets second. The development of a dog park in the Heritage Park neighbourhood is planned later this year.

Within the city, you are not allowed to let your dog walk on any pathway without a leash. Considering the acres of parkland without pathways in this town, this restriction still remains generous. Fido can prance about a significant number of areas, providing you maintain control, leash or no leash. If a dog is unleashed, and acts erratically or aggressively, it is considered “at large” and the owner is in violation of city bylaws. The reason is to limit the risk of attack.

The other day my husband and I were out for a walk near our home. As we passed a tall hedge, a dog lunged up from the grass towards us, growling and barking, only held back by a restraint that was invisible in the late evening light. I stood frozen and terrified and my husband tried to step in between the animal and me. Meanwhile, the owners sat on the front step watching us like they were at their favourite movie, while I melted in fear at the sight of the dog on its hind legs anticipating its next meal. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally got off their summer-time keisters and walked slowly towards the dog to rein it in. I don’t know if they needed one more drag on their cigarette or just enjoyed the show, but I was terrified and my husband was pretty angry about their indifference.

In both our situation and the one where the man was pounced on while resting in the park, the issue was not the leash. It was whether the owner had control of the dog and to what extent the general public has to lay aside its own comfort for the sake of an erratic animal’s freedom.

I don’t trust dogs that act unpredictably. Why then, am I required to be on the defensive when your dog comes running up to me with you trailing 25 meters behind? I don’t particularly care if it perceives me to be a threat or is just curious. And for the record, I don’t like animals smelling my crotch or wiping their snot on my pants any more than you would like my kid slapping your butt or throwing mud on your car.

If your dog can’t handle being in public without appearing to be a threat to me, then keep it on a leash and away from me. And be advised: if I’m walking down a public pathway within this fine city, and I see you approaching with your dog, I’ll be wary. If the dog’s not on a leash, I’ll be annoyed. If it approaches me without my invitation and you don’t try to stop it, I just might introduce it to my boot.

St. Albert Gazette | May 26, 2010 06:00 am | Dee-Ann Schwanke

(Dee-Ann Schwanke has never been bitten by a dog, however her daughter has.)

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