The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

PSA: Off-Leash Dogs Pose Real Threat

By Lea Jaratz

offleash dog

I live in a very dog-friendly neighborhood, with public park access just steps away. I love seeing them stroll past my house all day long, usually leashed and walking politely. But there’s always a potential for problems when a pet parent lets their dog off leash.

I watched one near incident from my living room window recently. A dog was off leash in the open park, running far from his owner. Across the street another man was walking his dog safely on a leash, when the off-leash dog darted out of the park, across the busy street, and ran over to investigate the on-leash dog. His owner was racing to catch up to him, calling over to say that his dog was friendly and that there was no cause for alarm. But it was too late. The on-leash dog was already in a frenzy, ready to take on the charging dog.

The fight was broken up quickly. Then there were words between the owners, and a lot of hand gestures coming from the leash-law abiding owner indicating that he didn’t really appreciate being put in this spot. See, he knew his dog wasn’t keen on other dogs. He was following the rules and yet still found himself having to control his dog in what could have been an avoidable situation. I’m not really sure who would have been liable in this case had either dog been hurt, but it’s unpleasant for any dog owner to have to break up a fight, no matter who started it.

Fortunately, I haven’t seen that same dog off leash in our park again. But he won’t be the last. In spite of signage requiring dogs be on leash in a park commonly used by children, dogs are let loose and unsupervised on a daily basis. Owners often let their dogs run straight out of the car freely, not checking to see if any other dogs or people are already in the park. The potential for injury or incident is entirely avoidable if they just kept their pets on leash.

I’ve been on the receiving end of the off-leash dog attack. Years ago, my old dog was attacked during our walk by a neighbor’s dog who was allowed to roam free. He wasn’t injured, but the incident was enough to spark a leash aggression issue that he never fully overcame.

Beyond the risk of a fight, there are other concerns. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a dog pooping in a public area while the owner is checked out on their phone. And if you’re not concerned about the wellbeing of others, consider that a dog unsupervised is likely to get into something they shouldn’t, potentially picking up a parasite. Keeping a dog on leash (and a poop bag in your pocket) can avoid a lot of unpleasantness and pollution for all.

It’s sad when a pet-loving person is trying to do the right thing by exercising their dog, but causes a safety risk to others by letting them go off leash. If you feel your dog is craving the off-leash experience, find a designated park or beach that allows off-leash activity. Otherwise, be respectful of others and keep your dog on leash.

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