As a resident, parent, and dog guardian, I have many opportunities to frequent and enjoy the many parks our area has to offer. Oftentimes I observe dogs running around off-leash in areas where it is illegal. All of the cities in Santa Cruz county require dogs to be on a leash that is a maximum of six feet long as do the state parks where dogs are allowed. All of the parks I visit where dogs are allowed have clearly posted signs stating that dogs require a leash and that owners must pick up after them.
So why then do I regularly see dogs running around off-leash and dog waste that is not picked up?
I understand that we all want to play with our dogs, to give them the exercise they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to promote long life, but what gives you the right to ignore the rules? Why do we have these leash laws in the first place?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): “Pet owners who allow their pets to roam unattended are putting the animals' welfare in jeopardy and creating a nuisance to neighbors, other domestic pets and wildlife. Allowing dogs to run off leash in inappropriate places is dangerous for the dog, puts people and other animals at risk and, in many towns and cities, is illegal. Leash laws exist to protect animals and people, and we urge you, as a responsible pet owner,to abide by them.Any animal control officer, police officer, or appropriate law enforcement agent can issue a summons upon witnessing a violation.”
The ASPCA says it is dangerous to other pets and people. In particular, let’s not forget that children and dogs can be a highly combustible mix. Children are generally much smaller than adults, move differently, and behave in patterns that may be unrecognizable to a dog even if that dog’s family has children. Many times children are bitten by a dog simply because they move too quickly and can be seen by a dog as an easy target when startled.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year with children receiving a disproportionately high share of those bites. 885,000 people need medical attention with 31,000 requiring reconstructive surgery. That is almost 1.5% of our population bitten by dogs each and every year!
I have the most wonderful, loving, peaceful dog. My dog has never bitten anyone. But, another dog, another animal, a child, or something else could set my dog into a moment of panic resulting in a bite. That bite could end with my dog being euthanized for my actions of not following the law. The same could happen to you. Please don’t let that happen to your beloved pet. Please don’t let that happen to someone else’s beloved child or pet. Please follow the laws regarding leashes.
Please check the Santa Cruz SPCA website for more information on where you can go with your dog on or off-leash.