This letter is a plea to dog owners.
Please leash your dog when you are out with them.
The plea is simple, and it’s the law. From the extremely high frequency of off-leash dogs that we see, it seems clear that many well-intentioned owners have lost sight of the very good reasons these laws are in place.
For me, there is a personal reason for making this plea.
First, here are some of the reasons why all First World countries have dog-leash laws.
In the U.S., in 2007, dog bites cost insurers $356.2 million. Dog-bite injuries now account for a third of all homeowners-insurance liability claims. The potential liability to cities can be substantial, far exceeding any licensing or ‘dog walk tourism’ revenue.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, dogs bite nearly 4.7 million people in the U.S. each year, and nearly 900,000 – half of them children – require medical attention. The body part most often affected is the face, 40.5 per cent. Dog bites are the fifth most frequent cause of child visits to emergency rooms.
In Canada, between 1990-2007, there were 28 fatal dog attacks reported; 24 were children under the age of 12. On average, 42 Canadians are bitten by a dog every hour.
Almost all of these bites were inflicted by dogs that had never bitten anyone before. The vast majority of owners were shocked that their dogs could ever do this. Most had their dogs put down after they bit once. They were good dogs up to that point. ‘Bad’ dogs are the rare exception, not the rule, where dog bites are concerned.
Please understand that, as a parent of four children, I cannot possibly get to know every dog we meet to make judgment as to the safety of my children around them.
When my husband was young, Great Blue Herons were frequently seen along the beach in White Rock. He used to laugh the odd time he saw a dog chasing one into the air. We can’t remember when the last time was that we saw one down there. I do clearly recall running into several off-leash dogs during every single recent visit.
I’ve noticed there are dog-walking websites that actually give a rating to each park based on “exciting wildlife such as bunnies or squirrels.” I fail to understand how purported animal lovers can justify indulging their dogs’ instincts by terrifying or maiming wildlife.
The incidence of dogs being mauled by off-leash dogs has reached unprecedented proportions. The torment being inflicted upon loving, law-abiding dog owners by those who feel they are above the law is truly troubling.
Then there is the reason that inspired me to write this:
Two years ago, my children had just finished playing at Ruth Johnson Park, and we were walking across the grass toward North Bluff Road. We noticed a man walking his off-leash black lab past the “Pets must be leashed” sign at the fitness track, so we waited for him to pass.
He walked to the crosswalk at 146 Street, and before he could push the button, his dog trotted onto North Bluff. We watched in horror: the screech, the impact, the thump as his mangled companion landed near the far sidewalk, the indescribable wailing of the twisted, dying dog as the driver fell to her knees, crying at its side.
It all happened so fast. I’ll never forget the looks in the eyes of my children as I pulled them away.
We all love our animals, and we are responsible for the pets that we choose to enrich our lives with. Do the right thing. Abide by the law. Please, leash your dogs.
Nicole Burgert, White Rock