Letter to the Editor: Walk a mile in their shoes

Posted

That is the answer to the often-asked question: Why does my well-behaved dog need to be on a leash?

It is fun to let our dogs run off-leash, and a chance to practice commands and obedience. So why does the city of Port Townsend, and virtually 100 percent of area towns, cities and counties require dogs to be leashed (not roaming free)?

Of course, there are the usual reasons (safety of people and dogs, destruction of property, pooping, causing vehicle accidents, etc). But what if you know that your dog, being so well-trained, would never cause any of these problems, or bother anyone when walking on trails or sidewalks?

Think about other people you may approach on sidewalks, trails, in stores; and imagine yourself in their place. This is called empathy. When people see a strange dog off-leash; their usual thought is "What is this dog going to do?”

Other people may be scared of dogs, may have been traumatized before, may have small dogs they fear may be attacked, may have small children, may be elderly and fear being knocked down; and if biking, fear the dog may chase or collide with them. Others have no idea what your dog is going to do.

This brings on anxiety, worry, stress, even fear, and may cause them to react negatively.

Even if you know for sure that your off-leash dog would never do any of these things, others do not know this. A leashed dog sends a signal that the dog is under control and not going to cause a problem, enabling others to relax and enjoy the passage. It sends a message that you are considerate and respectful of others. Please empathize with others sharing our community and leash your dog.

J. Ed Robeau
Port Townsend

Comments

2 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Tom Camfield

I do believe the leash law aims at protecting people from dogs that are NOT well-behaved and under control. A simple declaration by the animal's owner that the dog would never hurt anyone shouldn't be enough for exception from the law. It's sort of like an individual being allowed to bypass a gun-sale regulation just because he says, "I'd never really shoot anyone." A partially-enforced law is no law at all. The law does not provide for self-assumed privilege--as some people in high levels of public affairs are finding out the hard way these days.

I do believe in as much freedom as possible for animals. I solved it with my dog by walking her with a long retractable leash that allowed her to wander considerable distance from me and get in all manner of prolonged sniffing over a larger area when we walked. There also remained places on occasion where she could be turned loose, once in a while, such as a few areas not containing people outside the city limits—and I would take the trouble to go there. (Unfortunately, such wilderness-type areas have disappeared over the 25 or 30 years since then. I haven't had a dog for 21 years. Meanwhile, I also have little regard for short leashes that require dogs to move along at a swift pace without a chance to investigate their surroundings the least little bit. That seems almost like torturing one of the most loyal and loving creatures on earth.

Wednesday, March 13
Mike Loriz

Excellent letter, My Robeau. PTMC 8.04.160 clearly prohibits dogs at large, and the definition of a dog at large is given as one not on a leash. Today alone, I have encountered four dogs (three owners) off leash. One owner put his dog on leash, one put one of the dogs on leash (and asserted that leash law was not literal), and another refused. Four years ago, I might have seen four off-leash dogs in half a year.

Over four years ago, I built a 1/10 approximate model of the first Catholic Church in PT as a chicken tractor, and put it on the lot where the church sat a century ago (across from the Rothchild House). I got to watch the hens from my window, which used to be the rectory for that church. So many people got a kick out of the tractor and the hens, and the hens liked it, too. We had a few dog incidents per year early on, but I figured that was going to happen. My wife and I have always owned dogs, and I know from experience that dogs escape once in a while.

Canines eat chickens. Chickens know this. Hens in a coop try desperately to get away from a harassing or attacking dog, beating themselves silly against the side of the coop. They usually stop laying eggs for a while, also. About two years ago, the dog attacks increased in frequency from a couple per year to a couple per month.

WA State law gives the owner of livestock, including chickens, the explicit right to shoot a dog attacking his or her chickens. Shooting a dog with a .22 rifle out my back door at 35 feet is not much of a marksmanship challenge, but PT code prohibits discharge of firearms within city limits. More importantly, I could never, no way, no how, shoot a dog due to the stupidity of its owner. So, faced with the option of watching my beloved hens nearly killing themselves against the pen on a regular basis or getting rid of the coop, I got rid of the coop. It is now stationary behind the garage. Interestingly, of the dozens of encounters I had with marauding dogs and their owners, in only one case did the owner apologize and was even kind enough to bring two dozen eggs to off set the lost production. In nearly every other case the owner did not think it was a big deal at all. One twenty-something woman asserted that her poodle had the right to go after our chickens.

Port Townsend is a wonderful place with a higher proportion of really nice people I've ever seen. It also has a higher proportion of jackasses that I've ever seen. In addition, a number of pretty good laws (the subject leash law and Right of Way law are two of my per peeves) are either selectively enforced or not enforced at all. I think the City and PD might do a better job of education and enforcement. Absent that, I respectfully suggest simply repealing these, and other, laws. Some of us who follow these laws are starting to feels like suckers.

Wednesday, March 13