2016-03-17 / Letters to the Editor

Irresponsible dog owners should follow the rules

Gregarious, loyal with a heart of gold, yet occasionally prone to craziness and outlandish behavior. I could be talking about your grandmother or your toddler. In this case, however, I’m referring to the family dog.

Like your relatives, our four-legged family members come with familial obligations, most importantly tending to their well-being. However, a dog is an obligation that you undertook willingly, so you should have an increased sense of responsibility.

As a dog owner, it’s distressing to see how often these obligations are forgotten, especially with owners who allow dogs to wander off their leashes, becoming a nuisance and a potential danger.

By law, you are required to control your canine companion. The Jamestown ordinance states that dogs should be “properly leashed or under the direct command and control of its owner or keeper between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.” Despite this, I am frequently accosted in the streets by off-leashed dogs that have wandered away from their owners’ property. Behaved or not, an unleashed dog in the street probably fails the test for “direct command and control.”

Beyond legal requirements, however, you also have an obligation keep your dog restrained. Although you may have the friendliest dog on the island, neighbors don’t know that. Some may dislike dogs or have fears. They should not be subjected to interactions while walking around their own neighborhoods. Canine neighbors may perceive your well-intentioned dogs as a threat.

Off the leash in a park, my dog is approachable toward humans and dogs. Yet if a strange dog charges us in the street while I am walking with my toddler son, she will often take a defensive and hostile posture. If an altercation ensues and there is an injury, the owner of the uncontrolled owner should incur the liability.

Even if you’re unconcerned with your neighbors, hopefully you care about the health and safety of your dog. Anyone who has spent time as a pedestrian or bicyclist realized that speed limits on the island seem to be suggestions more than laws. While your dog is charging into the street to investigate a stranger, they may face the danger of an unfortunate encounter with a car. Worse yet, the dog may collide with a two-wheeled vehicle, resulting in injuries to both the animal and rider.

As a dog owner, I would be a hypocrite if I said that my own dog had never gotten away from me. While my dog is well behaved, she’s also a product of evolution — her well-honed hunting nose occasionally gets her into trouble. When she loses control, I try to make that a learning opportunity. By contrast, almost all of my bad encounters with dogs are from repeat offenders. The owners know that their dogs are prone to wandering.

From one dog lover to another, I implore you to take care of your family members and keep them out of trouble. Be a good dog owner and a good neighbor by keeping your canine companions leashed and under control.

Pete Zubof
North Main Road

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