I live in an area where loose dogs are an ever-present problem. I moved into this house on the park when The Child was 4 years old, and one of the first events that occurred here was for a large dog to run onto my property and scare the bejesus out of The Child. Later that summer, The Child, who was bending over to observe a snake in the grass, was bitten on the back of his leg by an off leash dog. Not long after that, our first dog, a loving little Chihuahua named Chiwee, was killed right in front of our house by another dog.
It's no surprise, then, that I have a problem with off-leash dogs who are not being controlled by their owners. It bothers me to no end that this city lacks a leash law, and for a while I tried to fight city hall on that issue. I got nowhere fast, because the dog owners are a very passionate, vocal and well-organized group. (Mind you, I am a dog owner myself, but I believe that dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs to the extent that other people can freely enjoy the park and their own residential property.)
A few days ago from inside my house I heard a loud ruckus in the park. I heard screaming and barking, and I figured there had been yet another incident involving out of control dogs. I ran outside, and sure enough, I found out that a 4 year old girl had been jumped on by a large Boxer. I know enough about dogs to know that the Boxer is not a vicious breed, but the fact remained that the dog had terrified the girl and her female caretakers. A verbal fight was in progress when I arrived on the scene.
There were 2 adult female dog owners and 3 large off leash dogs. The dog owners were laughing at the upset child and women, which I thought a very strange response. I jumped in to defend the women with the 4-year-old. We were all screaming. I told the women with the child to call the police and asked the owners to stay put until the authorities arrived. Of course they began walking away very quickly.
Fortunately, the 4-year-old was with 3 adult women, so I advised 2 of them to follow the dog owners, and they kept in touch with us by cell phone so that we could guide the police. The police called animal control, and the dog owners were dealt with effectively, which is highly unusual since offending dog owners usually escape before they can be caught. Even though there is no leash law, it is not lawful for dogs to jump on people they don't know, and it turned out that the dogs were unlicensed as well. The dogs remain with their owners, but maybe, just maybe, they'll think of other people next time they venture out to the park.
If the story ended there, I suppose it would be fairly clear that I acted responsibly and reasonably. But it didn't. I made a sign to post at the entrance to the park right outside of my house. The sign refereed to the state revised code which requires that dog owners be in control of their dogs at all times, with the leash being the most effective tool to achieve that end. I listed the offenses which had occurred in the park which were examples of dogs NOT being controlled. The sign was businesslike and unemotional, and looked as if it might have been official, posted by the city or the parks department.
From inside my house I could see people standing in front of the sign of it to read it. The next day, I was sitting on my patio reading the newspaper when 2 women arrived at the park entrance and started setting up obedience training equipment so that they could work with their dogs. I didn't particularly want to hear their conversation, but I did. The women started reading my sign, and then began laughing. One remarked to the other, "Dogs killing other dogs!" while they both had a good laugh.
I sat there fuming, no longer able to focus on my newspaper. Finally I marched over to where the women were rehearsing their dog moves, and said, "Excuse me, but I overheard you laughing at the sign over there. I happen to have owned a dog who was killed by another dog, right here in the park, in front of my house, and I don't understand why you consider that to be funny."
The women obviously were uncomfortable with confrontation and they ignored me as if they couldn't hear me. So I repeated it, louder. They continued to ignore me, while I became more exasperated and ended up telling them that I didn't understand them. (I had already told them that the sign didn't apply to them, since they were clearly taking steps to control their dogs.) It was pointless; I walked away.
It was then that I decided that the dog fight wasn't worth fighting anymore. I didn't feel right about being so aggressive, and even though the dog owners who laughed at the Boxer scaring the heck out of a group of people were caught, there are dozens of dog owners who think nothing of letting their dogs ruin the park experience for other people. I have spent years trying to convince dog owners that they are being inconsiderate. The primary result is nothing but a rise in my own blood pressure. I give up. And I wonder if it was really my business in the first place.