In her latest Living Snoqualmie column, dog trainer Melissa Grant, who works for LeChic Pet in Issaquah, talks local leash laws, dog greetings and steps to avoid unwanted confrontations while out on walks – some which can lead to bites.
Recently a reader, who had a seemingly friendly dog bite experience, asked about the leash laws in Snoqualmie, if we have one and what the law entails. Why yes, we do. Most cities, counties and states have leash laws. There are some unincorporated spaces where the law does not apply, but for the most part there are laws in place regarding control of your dog. Here are the pertinent parts of the municipal code:
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).
Basically what it says is that you must have a leash on your dog, unless your dog is on your property, in your car or at an off-leash park. If you don’t, it’s a misdemeanor and you could potentially get a ticket.
We all love our pooches like a member of our family, but we need to remember not everyone would like to meet our furry “children.” Shocking as it may seem, some people may not like dogs or they may be allergic or just downright afraid. Conversely, they may have a dog that doesn’t want to meet your dog today…or any dog. I’ve said before, I walk dogs occasionally and some of those dogs are clients because they flat-out aren’t nice to strange people or dogs. One of my canine charges appears to give all sorts of welcoming signals to people and dogs, but then will bite when approached. Leashes keep everyone safe.
So what to do when you are approached by a strange dog? If the dog is on a leash, with an adult person and you are without a dog, ask before approaching the dog. Keep in mind the tale of my “friendly” dog client.
In a perfect world I would say your best bet is to just stay away from dogs you don’t know personally. There is always a first time for biting. The handler may be a dog novice and not always in sync with how their dog is feeling. However, I realize those big brown eyes and floppy ears are just begging for a scratch. So ask permission, move and speak slowly/quietly, don’t give direct eye contact. Let the dog sniff you first and go for a chest scratch.
Some dogs are head shy and the hand over the head move can be construed as threatening. If the dog appears to back away or stiffen up, stop. It is his decision if he wants to be touched – not yours. The same rules apply for an off-leash dog with a human present. If the dog is loose and no human is present, proceed with much caution, especially if it presents as aggressive. A wagging tail can mean good things, but it can also indicate anxiety. If charged don’t run; present yourself to the side and raise your fingers out of reach. Again, give no direct eye contact.
If you are approached by a leashed dog when you also have a leashed dog, your best bet is to keep moving. Leashes cause dogs to greet each other in a way that is unnatural for them – head on. It can be a recipe for disaster. Even if the dogs are acquaintances. At most, allow a 3 second sniff and move it along.
If a loose dog wants to approach your leashed dog, my best advice is to turn and walk away if you can. Stay vigilant on walks and avoid this scenario as much as possible. It rarely turns out well. I know my dog. I know to drop her leash and ease tension in this situation, but you need to use common sense when it comes to your own dog.
My best advice is to plan ahead for every possible situation, avoid problem areas in your neighborhood and train your own dog to be a good canine citizen. As always, contact an experienced and knowledgeable dog trainer when dealing with potential bite situations.