Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Love Your Dog? Leash Your Dog!

by Sistine Burgess

All the animals pictured here are available for adoption! Click their names to learn more!

Candy Cane, ready to go!
Many people think that leash laws and policies are merely suggestions for people with dogs who aren't friendly or don't listen to their owners. Some believe that their dog shouldn't be confined to a leash when at a public park or in the woods, but allowed to run and explore, as long as they stay within eyesight of their owner. However, leash laws are in place for more reasons than just keeping your dog close; they keep your dog, you, and the public, safe.

You may think that it's okay for your dog to be unleashed because it's friendly. Although your dog might be friendly, there are animals, and people, who aren't. There are wild and stray animals your dog may sniff out, and if your dog isn't on a leash, you may not be able to convince them to leave it alone. Wild animals want to avoid humans, but if they're cornered and scared, they're unpredictable and will defend themselves. This can end in not only expensive vet bills, but in heartbreak for you and your family.

We love our dogs, but not everyone does. People have the right to walk in public spaces without having to fear being confronted by loose dogs. Many walkers carry sticks and other weapons with them for protection against stray or dangerous animals. If your dog isn't leashed and approaches a stranger, they may get hurt or even killed. They may even approach another dog in the hopes of play, but not all other dogs want to interact with other animals. There's always the chance that an unfamiliar dog has special needs, behavioral issues, or is sick. Another dog might be a service dog that's working and needs to have their space respected. Never allow your dog to approach an unfamiliar dog without explicit permission from that dogs owner, especially unleashed.

Porscha is safe in her leash and harness
Many people with small breeds don't consider their animal dangerous or threatening because they're smaller than average. Size is no excuse for an animal to be unleashed. Small dogs can be just as quick to snap at a stranger, a child who may pet too hard, or another dog. These situations are made more dangerous if they aren't on a leash and easy to control or remove from a dangerous situation. Smaller dogs are at a higher risk of being seen as prey animals by bigger dogs, and should always be on a leash so they can be protected and controlled.

A common misconception is that dogs that stay close to their owners can do fine off of a leash. A lot of dogs want to stay on the heels of their owners at all times, even when outside. Even when a dog is trusted to stay within close proximity of their owners, it is never okay to assume that they won't at any point bolt away from you. When a dog is not on a leash, they can get into trash or ingest something undesirable or dangerous. Especially when in an unfamiliar environment or an area that has the potential to hold numerous distractions, special care should be taken to ensure that your dog is always on their leash.

If a dog sees something they want to investigate and they're not secure, there is a chance for tragedy. An unleashed animal can chase after unfamiliar or wild animals, causing harm to the other animals or themselves. Your animal might even cross a road, unknowingly putting itself in danger. Not only does your dog have the chance of getting hurt or killed by an oncoming car, it can cause the driver to get into a wreck and be hurt or even killed. As the owner of that dog, you might be held liable for damages caused by your unleashed animal. 

Many dogs are natural runners or chasers. If you don't ensure their safety on a leash, they can run themselves into unfamiliar territory and get lost. The whole family suffers when a beloved dog is lost. When the family dog gets lost, it can get picked up by animal control or taken in by a good semaritan, but there is always a chance that it might get hit by a car, attacked by wild animals, hurt by humans, or simply never be found.

Buddy hits the trail
It's not only dangerous and rude to have an unleashed dog, it's illegal. It's unlawful in almost all places to have an unleashed dog outside of your personal property. In the city of Greenville, dogs in public must be on a leash, or confined, at all times. The city of Greenville's website states, “The City of Greenville has a 24-hour leash law. Every person owning or keeping a dog must keep it on his/her premises. Dogs are permitted off the owner’s property if the dog is on a leash or is under some other means of physical control.” It goes on to explain that found dogs are taken to Pitt County animal shelter and owners will be made to pay fines for their animal.

We love our dogs. Most of us see them as more than pets, but as family. We always want to do what's right for our loved ones, and for our dogs, that means keeping them on a leash. It keeps your dog close to you, within your control, away from other people and dogs who may not want interactions, and away from areas that may be unsafe. Leashing your dog is both the safe and the kind thing to do.

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