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25 November 2008


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I totally agree. There are leashed areas, and then there are dog parks. We are fortunate in Albuquerque to have some off-leash dog parks, which is where I take my two dogs to play ball and roam around off leash. I have a couple of nice little city parks near my house, and we walk to one of those every day. Unfortunately, there are many folks who think it's ok to let their unleashed - and not voice-controlled - dogs roam around. My younger dog gets wound up by the sight of off-leash dogs tearing around like maniacs while she is leashed, and it's been a lot of work to teach her to remain calm, and focused on me, instead of the other dog.

Over the summer I had a bad run-in with some jerk who was letting his dog run wild. I politely asked him to leash his dog, since she was a good quarter mile away from him at times and there were many other people and (leashed) dogs walking or running in the park. He got extremely aggressive and abusive towards me, and another woman who backed me up. Apparently, this was not the first time he'd behaved this way towards someone who asked him to leash his dog. I ended up reporting it, because city animal control will patrol parks and give citations to people with off-leash dogs. I felt bad about doing it, but, on the other hand, every park has a sign explaining our responsibilities as dog owners. Better that we should all respect that than end up with a general ban on dogs in city parks.

Gina Spadafori

I rescued the earlier comment from the spam bots. :)

Seriously ... you don't speed through Kern County on I-5? How do you keep from being run over?

I have never kicked about paying a parking ticket, and I wouldn't kick about being ticketed for an off-leash dog along the river parkway. The rangers are just doing their job.

It's not always possible to move, by the way, to where the laws are more to your liking.


The only think I didn't like about your article, Christie, was your apologetic tone (and for that matter, the apologetic tone of some of the comments here). Why should YOU have to apologize? You have the right to use public areas and shouldn't have to worry about out of control animals harassing you. If an out of control, say, skateboarder, crashed into you, would you feel you had to apologize to HIM?

Off leash dogs belong on their owners property or in designated offleash areas. Period.


As someone who spent over a decade specializing in re-training aggressive dogs, some of the comments I'm reading make me want to cry. Training and socialization is the duty of all dog owners. An aggressive dog has no place in civilized society. (And I say that having re-socialized countless aggressive and dangerous dogs.)

A leash is merely a tool meant to keep dogs under control while they learn to control their own behaviour and obey verbal commands. I try never to have any contact with a dog's neck. Once minimal training is accomplished, a regular ol' walk in the neighbourhood would be no different for me with, or without, a leash.

I liked Emily S's comment, in the sense that too many times the law-abiding are made to feel as though they're the difficult ones. The only thing I've ever seen come from frequent flouting of dog-related by-laws is increased enforcement and/or stricter laws. (I think it's a rare day that politicians see all the people breaking a particular dog-related law and say, "Let's just legalize that." It's usually quite the opposite...sometimes disallowing dogs from an area entirely, because a small percentage of owners refuse to obey the rules.)

As someone who's been around the block a few times, I know all too well that many people see dog ownership and dog training as a competition. These types believe they're demonstrating what superior dog owners they are, by walking their dogs off-leash. (Even though their dogs are, in reality, about 1/10th as reliably obedient as are my dogs, by comparison.) A young dog owner recently asked me about this very subject (leashes & off-leash walking), and my final comment was this:

"A leash is neither the sign of a poorly-trained dog nor an incompetent owner. But a tight leash probably is."

Proper training makes a leash pretty much irrelevant to a dog. And, by definition, responsible dog owners obey all dog-related by-laws, without excuse. (If you don't like a law, you can't just disregard it. You obey it while you work to have it changed.) It only makes life difficult for all dog owners when any one of us disobeys the law or behaves inconsiderately. It shouldn't be that way. Individuals should be dealt with individually. But I'm afraid one dog owner's actions often paint us all with the same brush.


As a responsible dog owner, I obey local bylaws. I do this so as not to sully the reputation of other dog lovers and their charges.

It's a matter of social responsibility.

However, if a municipality refuses to set up dog parks (and many do because of bizarre beliefs) then owners haven't much recourse if they want to let their dogs run, especially those in urban areas.

Kate M

I live in Calgary, AB. We have over 100 off-leash areas ranging form small parks to large areas near the river. There is not real lack or off leash areas (although I would like one in walking distance that does not take 20-30 min to walk to, but thats another thing altogether). I try to take my dogs at least once a week to one of the bigger parks.

My issue with people who have their dogs off leash in on leash areas, is that your dog may be friendly, but mine may not be. Who would get in trouble if my dog attacked your? You for having you dog off leash, or me for having an on leash dog. There are too many people who are afraid of dogs and dog who don't like other dogs to justify having you dog off leash.

At least at an off-leash park, you can assume that the dogs are friendly and the people like dogs. There are some idiots who bring aggressive dogs to parks and blame everyone else.

A felxi leash doesn't offer much more control than off leash. But thats for another day.


Agreed! I'm trying to teach Kasey (who would probably terrify Kyrie with his eagerness) to greet dogs properly and to stop when I say it's time to go. Not so easy when he's on a leash and the other dog isn't. And "being under voice control" is one of those things that's subjective even though it shouldn't be.

The dog park has it's share of perils and there are dogs who shouldn't be off leash even there. Like Dude-the-humping-dog at our dog park who gets a treat from his owner every time he goes at it on another dog. (She does it to draw him away but I'm thinking he doesn't see it quite like that) It is amusing however to hear her going "Dude! Dooooood! Dude! Stop that!" Like she's a surfer.


Since becoming a dog owner, I've become a creature of the twilight. I do walk my dogs off-leash in parks that are marked leash-only. We go at low-traffic times of day (hence the twilight). They are trained not to go up to other dogs or people without permission. I scoop, often including other dogs' wastes as well. Is it perfect? No. Is it safer than the local dog parks with too many untrained dogs in too small a space? Yes. I'll be getting a puppy sometime next year, and he'll run with a long line on until he's under voice control.


It's not just the comments I'm reading here but let me ask this: what if your pet who may not be on a leash is terrified by something or someone and takes off running. What if your pet may not be on a leash and another dog attacks him/her. How can you safely pull your pet away without being harmed yourself. Much as I love dogs, there's still that unseen factor that could set your dog up to get lost or hurt. That's why leashes are made.

Gina Spadafori

Sign on the door?

"We welcome leashed, well-mannered dogs in our store!"


Re: the sign on the door.

"Your leashed pet is always welcome" is what it says on the door to my local pet store, Cutter's Mill.


Nothing makes it tougher to desensitize a dog aggressive dog, than not being able to control who they meet up close and personal in a public park or thoroughfare. Your dog may be friendly, but my dog hasn't always been and we have a right to walk here, on leash, unmolested. Save the free-running for the appropriate areas - and when you get there go nuts and have a great time.



Sorry...(grinning)...you're talking to someone who never allows her dog off-leash in designated leashed areas; comes to a complete stop at all stop signs; doesn't speed; has never tried any illegal drugs; and was outside in a store's parking lot, recently, when I realized the cashier had only charged me for one of my two items (and went back inside the store to make sure I paid the correct price). Yeah...it's hard being this "good". ;-)

If I lived somewhere that passed a law I couldn't live with while fighting to have it changed, I'd move. It's not even a question.

Okay. Okay. Okay. My point wasn't meant to prove what a goody two-shoes I am. (Although I am, admittedly, a colossal goody two-shoes.) I'm just saying it requires very little from me to simply be a responsible dog owner. It's not especially expensive or overtly time-consuming (save the drive to & from the off-leash parks). It ain't rocket science, that's for sure.

I trained dogs for 30 years, and despite all the bad behaviour and difficult temperaments I had to deal with (and the dogs weren't always a joy either)(snickering), I didn't "have to" disobey any laws. Thus, I don't buy most of the arguments that people can't obey the laws, or their justifications for not doing so.


There is nothing more terrifying to me than having an unleashed dog charge at my leashed, dog-phobic dog. Having a frenzied, snarling dog on the end of a leash only makes ME look like the bad dog-owner, even though we're the legal ones, and even though she's usually fine when we walk past leashed dogs. It's the unleashed ones that kick her into fight-or-flight mode, and being leashed means that flight isn't an option. :(

Gina Spadafori

Yes, well, OK ... I'm a serial law-breaker as well. In our area we have a 30-odd mile river parkway. We have long lobbied for a chunk of that to be off-leash so we can hike with our dogs and our dogs can SWIM.

The people who run the parkway want none of it. If they could figure out a way to ban PEOPLE from the parkway, I swear they would.

What we want is an off-leash AREA -- not a fenced couple of acres so over-used it's bare ground. We want a couple of miles set aside for off-leash recreation, and our successful model for this is the Point Isabel:


What we have, instead, is a de facto off-leash recreation area where the rangers now and then decide to get out and issue flurries of tickets, but otherwise leave us alone.

Meanwhile, we dog owners who frequent this particular stretch of river have seen it all and cleaned up after most of it: Underaged drinking, public sex, drug-dealing, homeless encampments and more.

My dogs are on leash on the streets and in all the city and county parks. (Our few local dog parks are small, crowded and full of idjits, so I don't go there.) We go to the river and let them hike and swim. Mine are on voice control, but let's be honest: most aren't.

But because the area is pretty vast, we don't get many of the "in your face" moments and dog-related problems are very rare. And really, those problems are generally only in summer, when more people use the area. This time of year, there are not many people on the parkway.

Maybe someday this area actually WILL be an off-leash recreation set-aside. I pay my taxes and deserve to have my recreational needs addressed, too, just as soccer fans, bike riders and tennis players do now.

Not holding my breath -- or my dogs -- waiting for that to happen.


Good point. I want to add that I love it when my customers bring their dogs into my pet store for a visit....but it gets really scary sometimes when they come in with their untrained dogs off leash in a store with other, leashed dogs. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions on how I can nicely deal with customers who insist their dogs come into my store off leash? Sometimes I'm scared a fight is going to happen... with one off leash and one leashed dog...ya know?


Megan, I sympathize with you. My dog is not cool with off leash dogs charging at her. She was actually attacked by one, who the owner said was friendly when I called out to her . . . . turns out the owner thought my dog was a male . . .

I can't believe I have to tell owners to grab their off leash dogs and control them on the city streets. I'll never understand how they can walk around here without control of their dogs. Especially when the dogs bolt across the street to "meet" mine. One dog was hit doing this, which was one of my fears.

Sara Jo

We don't have as much of a problem at parks near where I live as we do walking in our semi-rural neighborhood. There are 3 homes where unleashed dogs notoriously charge us if we walk by on the street. My rescue rattie is a perfect gentleman in the off-leash dog park but very aggressive if he's charged by a loose dog when he's on a leash. We no longer can walk this very nice neighborhood walk that we love if I have my rattie because one home leaves their aggressive dachsund on the front porch unsupervised, and he will charge us all the way out into the street. It has been a long and difficult journey to get my rattie to not freak out about every little thing while on a leash, and when we get charged by a loose dog months of hard work go down the drain.

Gina Spadafori

by definition, responsible dog owners obey all dog-related by-laws, without excuse. (If you don’t like a law, you can’t just disregard it.

Comment by Marjorie — November 25, 2008

I know what you're saying here, Marjorie, but believe me if forced spay-neuter had passed in California there is no way on God's green earth that I would have been "responsible" enough to cooperate in the extinction of heritage breeds.

I will say that letting my dogs off-leash at the river to swim and exceeding the speed limit while driving to L.A. on I-5 are the only laws I ever break. So far.


Okay...my comment didn't show up. I'll try to keep this one shorter. ;-) ...Try.

I meant to also include the moving option. Now, granted, you're talking to someone who also obeys all traffic laws, and has moved 33 times. (I, too, have driven long stretches of California highways, especially when I lived in Santa Rosa and my brother lived in Beverly Hills. But I like cruise control to make sure I don't speed.)

I trained dogs for 30 years and worked with some of the most difficult dogs imaginable. Still, it hasn't been especially difficult for me to stay legally-compliant with the dogs in my care. I would move, though, if a new law meant doing something I considered unethical to my dog.

I can't help but liken the excuses people use for not obeying dog-related laws to my enjoyment of the A&E show, "Parking Wars." If you don't park illegally and/or if you are legally compliant with all your other documentation, then you don't have a problem. Yet every episode is filled with people ranting about the fees and inconvenience; totally disregarding their own culpability. I think it's a hoot. They just look stupid.

And in that regard, I want to point out that as a former canine legislation consultant and dog bite researcher, there are scant few negative doggie incidents involving dogs owned by people who obey the law and have properly trained, socialized, and supervised their pets. Failure to be a responsible dog owner is a recipe for complaints and anti-dog sentiment.


I can think of one situation where moving could be an issue. MSN statewide. Or statewide BSL. Ok, that's 2 :)

Haven't seen it so far, but a statewide limit law would also be an issue for many. I may have to break a limit law by one cat soon. Of course, anyone would be hard pressed to find the extra cat in my home. I have 2 that literally disappear with visitors. And they're indoor cats, so it's not like my "extra" cat would be a "burden" to my neighbors etc.

Any of the above laws that covered a city or county could pose a problem for many. And the many I'm thinking of are responsible pet owners who, in general, obey the pet laws. I happen to have an issue with mandatory rabies vacs, especially for cats. Hopefully, if testing shows that every three years is unnecessary, laws will be changed.

Moving is expensive, and also poses problems for many. Distance to job, owning the home, schools for the kids, caring for elder parents, etc. If my building became no pets, of course I would move. If the city banned my breed, yikes! Then I'd be a bit more in a jam. And I work from home, lol!~ It also depends on how long the grace period is. 3 months sounds like a lot, but with pets, not always. More and more places are becoming pet unfriendly. Or have size limits, # limits etc. Life would be easier if I just had one cat or a small breed dog. But I don't. I happen to like the larger variety of dogs with spots and multiple cats ;)


"Seriously … you don’t speed through Kern County on I-5? How do you keep from being run over?"

hehehe... Yes. Almost run over many times in CA. But it was over 20 years ago when I lived in that area. My strongest memories are of daily, white-knuckle trips along shoulderless Sonoma Mountain Road and the like.

But don't get me started on scary driving/drivers. I've seen some things...

"It’s not always possible to move, by the way, to where the laws are more to your liking."

Okay...so I'm desperately curious. ;-) Since I'm clearly not talking about avoiding any and every law, can you give an example of a dog-related law one would be reasonable to flee (i.e. for obvious ethical reasons), that one could not escape by moving? I'm genuinely curious, because I've lived in many cities, regions, states, and countries, and I can't think of a good example. And I can explain my position/experience better if I know what you mean. :-)

Oh, and if you mean not everyone can afford to move, then I "get" that, of course. I just think that, in some cases (not all, mind you, but some cases) people make a choice to throw the pet under the bus, rather than their careers/bank accounts/sense of familiarity and security/etc. Having moved so many times myself, I know that moving doesn't have to be a stressful, frightening time in one's life, nor is it automatically career-ending or financially crippling. I quite look forward to each new move, now.

I've worked in animal welfare since the 70's so I've heard just about every excuse in the book for nearly every situation. Lots of people apparently "have to" abandon their pets because they're moving. They have to "get rid of" the dog because they had a baby. They have to kill their dog because some pointy-headed politician banned the breed in their city. A dog is better off in the care of someone a tad more committed to its lifelong well-being. Moving is the least I'd do, if it meant saving my dog's life.

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