The dogs and I went out exploring yesterday, tried a couple of new parks, and had a fun adventure. That is what I intended to write about today. Instead, I am hopping up on my soapbox to address the rampant issue of illegally off-leash dogs in the Pacific Northwest and particularly here in Seattle. First, let me say, I have done it. A lot. But after one particularly bad experience as well as much research and conversations with
- It's dangerous. I know. You're going to say your dog has a 100% reliable recall or a 100% reliable heel. The Border Collie that prompted me to write this post was possibly one of those dogs. It's owner had set up a jumpies course in the park. A park with "leash your pets" signs posted everywhere. This dog, though, even when another illegally off-leash chocolate lab approached, remained in it's down stay. So this Border Collie was very well trained. But what about the other people using the park or passers-by? Do they know how to train a dog to be 100% reliable on commands? Or do they walk by and think, "wow, cool, I am going bring my dog to the park to practice agility too!?" Did I mention this park is on a major, four lane arterial? Yeah. I'm not even going to bother ranting about the chocolate lab, that completely ignored it's owner while she skipped after him giggling high pitched "oh you silly, come on over here"s. And what if that chocolate lab had aggressively approached the laying down, obeying it's command Border Collie while both owners were far away? So maybe your dog is great. 100%. But please think. Think about the danger to your dog and to other dogs. Think about the dangers to other people using the park and in your community. Think about other animals (birds, squirrels, seals.) Think it through.
- It's illegal. Yes, I'm stating the obvious. But have any frequent breakers of this law thought about what this means? When laws or rules are frequently broken, and when the authorities can't enforce them, stricter laws are put in place. Remember the kid in school who always spoke out of turn and made the whole class miss recess or a field trip? I view illegally off-leash dog owners as this sort of spoiler. There are many, many cities throughout the country where dogs are not allowed in parks at all. I have been in these cities and cringed. I don't want this to happen here in Cascadia. So I obey the rules. It's that simple.
- It's rude. I know. You're going to say your dog is friendly or you thought no one else was in the park/on the sidewalk. It's a public space, in a city. Of course there are other people in it and not all of them like your dog even if it is friendly. I have a good friend who lives right across the street from Westcrest Park in Seattle. It is a great forested park with lovely trails and a playground. It also has a large, designated off-leash area. Because so many people chose to use the entire park as an off-leash area, my friend does not use this park. Many of her neighbors don't either. People are frequently bit along the trails. Dogs often get lost in the woods. And for what? More off-leash space than the already huge fenced area? Again, all you need to do is think. Think about the child, and the mother of the child, that is terrified of dogs. Think about people with shy or reactive dogs. Even if your dog is 100%, and comes back to you or stays next to you, or is super friendly, your off-leash dog, even if just for a moment, has stressed those people out. It's just inconsiderate.
This post is dedicated to the ladies I walked past at Greg Davis Park a few months ago training their dog on a long line. I thanked you profusely. I think of you often. You are stellar examples of dog, animal and park lovers as well as exceptional members of our community.