[Article by Melissa Grant, North Bend resident, owner and pet trainer at Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs]
Last week on a sunny Thursday around 1pm I was driving down Snoqualmie Parkway. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a man running with his two dogs. “How Fun!’ I thought as I took note of the dog’s breed and body language. Suddenly the man lurched into traffic, darted in front of my car, causing me to slam on my brakes. He then headed across all four lanes of traffic. When he got to the median he threw everything in his hands (it appeared to be a music player and possibly his lunch) towards the dogs and lurched towards the other side of the street.
Suddenly I realized the man was dressed for work and was not running with his dogs but running from someone else’s dogs. Horrified I laid on my horn and rolled down my window making kissing noises, hoping to distract the dogs from their chase.
Just as I was preparing to get out of my car to tempt the two dogs with the chicken wings I had just purchased at Safeway, another man came running from the same direction carrying two pinch collars and leashes. He too looked horrified. The dogs were now distracted and milling around on the median while the man previously chased was catching his breath on the other side of the street.
I waited, along with several other cars, while the second man corralled his dogs. After seeing things were now under control, I drove off to hear the second man asking the first if he was ok and if the dogs had ripped his pants. As I drove on, I realized my hands were shaking from the adrenaline rush of having to stop so short. I closely watched social media for a couple of days to see if anyone else had seen it – or if either man talked about it – but saw nothing.
Let’s review the Snoqualmie municipal code for a moment:
12.12.130 Animals at large prohibited except in designated off-leash areas.
A. It is unlawful for any person to permit any dog or pet owned by him or under his charge to run at large in any park, except in a designated off-leash area. All dogs or other pets shall be kept on a leash no longer than eight feet.
B. It shall be the responsibility of the owner or person having charge of any dog or other pet to maintain it under control at all times so as not to pose a danger to other people or animals. No person shall allow his dog or other pet to bite or in any way molest or annoy other park visitors. No person shall permit his dog or other pet to bark continuously or otherwise disturb the peace and tranquility of the park.
6.04.020 Control of dogs by leash required.
A. All dogs off the premises of the owner shall be under control of the owner or some duly authorized and competent person by means of a leash; provided, that dogs shall not be required to be controlled by means of a leash while confined within the interior of an automobile or other vehicle belonging to the owner or other authorized and competent person, or while under voice control of owner or other authorized and competent person while within the boundaries of a city-designated off-leash area, which has been designated by a majority vote of the city council.
B. For purposes of this chapter, a leash shall mean a cord, thong or chain, or other similar suitable device, not exceeding 15 feet in length, by which a dog is physically controlled by the person accompanying it. (Ord. 821 § 2, 1998).
A. Any dog off the premises of the owner not controlled by means of a leash is hereby declared to constitute a nuisance, and shall be subject to impoundment.
B. Any owner of a dog who shall willfully permit a dog to be off the premises of the owner not under control by means of a leash, or who after being notified in writing by an animal control officer that his dog has been found off the premises of the owner not under control by means of a leash, and who shall thereafter again suffer or allow his dog to be off the premises of the owner not under control by means of a leash, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. For purposes of this section, the term “owner” shall include any person in possession or control of the dog with the owner’s express or implied permission. (Ord. 821 § 2, 1998).
To be clear there in only one off-leash park in Snoqualmie: Three Forks Dog Park at 39903 SE Park St, Snoqualmie, WA 98065. The area where this incident occurred was nowhere near the dog park. I am purposefully not identifying the people or dogs involved in the incident I saw. I have no interest in getting anyone in trouble and it looked like, at least physically, everyone was fine.
At the risk of sounding like a complete spoil sport, I am firmly on the side of most dogs being on leashes.
As many of you know, I am a dog trainer, but I am also a part-time dog walker. Dog walking was never an intentional career path, but more of a side gig born out of some of my clients’ need. See, I frequently work with leash reactive dogs. Very simply, leash reactiveness is a term we use to describe dogs who have trouble meeting other dogs while leashed. The trouble can range from avoidance to full-blown aggressive displays.
Many dogs do fine being walked by the next-door neighbor’s teen, but some need a more experienced hand which is where I come in. For instance, I walk a VERY large flock guardian type dog in Bellevue who is VERY leash reactive. He weighs 120lbs and could cause serious harm to an off-leash animal should they happen to run up to him while loose. We’ve had a couple close calls with sweet off leash dogs running towards us while the owner calls “don’t worry he’s friendly!”
That’s not the point. This dog isn’t. So far, we’ve avoided problems, but the leash keeps him safe, me safe and the other animal safe.
Note: if you had an altercation with a terribly aggressive on leash dog and your dog was off leash you would be found to be at fault and liable for any injuries to the dog or the owner.
Additionally, as odd as it sounds, not everyone loves dogs as much as you do. There are folks who are allergic, afraid, in work clothes or just aren’t fans of dogs. Most days I’m wearing clothes suitable for a good old canine romp and I don’t care if your dog jumps on me (I know, I know. They shouldn’t, but sue me. I like a good old canine rumba.) But some days I want to stay clean and a loose dog, twenty feet in front of you is pretty hard to control. If the person is afraid, you never know what they will do to protect themselves against the object of that fear. They could kick or they could be armed with something to hurt your dog.
Lastly, you may think your recall is good, but until you have “proofed” (Proofing involves practicing behaviors in a variety of situations with different levels of distraction) your dog’s behavior, you just don’t know if their prey drive will kick in and they will chase something moving fast.
When I first saw the two dogs chasing that man last week I honestly thought everyone was having fun. Their body language didn’t say “attack” to me. It said “woo hoo this person is playing with us!” However, there are folks out there who aren’t dog savvy, who simply want to eat their lunch and listen to their music without having to interpret dog body language. These folks don’t know to NOT run and frankly they shouldn’t have to make that decision in the hot sun on their lunch hour.
Please, don’t make the rest of us and our dogs look bad. Leash your dogs wherever its required.