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Leash laws are in place for a good reason: Public safety

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on May 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm with 9 Comments »
May 10, 2012 9:00 am

Dog owners can let their pets run free in off-leash areas such as this one at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

A Puyallup judge dismissed fines given to a dog owner for failing to have his two large labrador retrievers on leashes in a city park. The judge found that the man misinterpreted the leash law as including the electronic collars his dogs wore.

Not to argue with the judge, but that’s ridiculous. Everyone knows that a leash is a leash and that an electronic collar isn’t one.

And the city’s law is clear: Leashes are required on dogs when they’re in public places; it says nothing about electronic collars being equivalent to leashes.

According to Puyallup’s municipal code: “No dog shall be permitted, except on a leash, to use or be on any public street, sidewalk, parkway or public place within the city limits,” and “No leash shall be greater than 8 feet in length.”

It really couldn’t be much clearer.

Terry Nelson of Puyallup was using electronic collars on his golden labs so they could practice hunting techniques. He admits that the dogs were 20 to 30 yards away from him – up to 82 feet farther away than allowed by the leash law. Even if Nelson thought that the collars were equivalent to leashes, he should not have allowed them to be more than 8 feet away from him.

Puyallup – like unincorporated Pierce County and most of its cities – has a leash law for a reason: public safety. While many, if not most, dogs could probably be trusted to behave when they’re out in public, enough of them pose a threat that leash laws are necessary. It’s not uncommon for unleashed dogs to run up to small children or frail adults and frighten or knock them over. Many dog owners have stories about how their leashed pets were attacked by dogs running off-leash.

An electronic collar depends on constant line of sight if it’s to be an effective control device. What happens on a trail when the dog goes around a bend and cannot be seen by the owner? How can the owner know that he must exert control should the dog encounter people, another dog or wildlife?

How is someone who sees a large dog approaching supposed to know that it is actually on a “leash,” just one that can’t be seen – especially if the owner isn’t in sight?

Requiring an actual leash on a dog – not an invisible one – is also important for enforcement purposes. An officer can spot an infraction from a distance and does not have to park, confront the dog owner and inspect the equipment to ensure that it actually is an electronic collar in working condition – complete with live batteries.

If dog owners want their animals to run free, they can take them to one of the area’s off-leash parks. There’s no excuse for allowing them to run unrestrained in a city park, no matter how well-behaved their owners think they are. Too many people have found out the hard way that their dogs aren’t always the gentle animals they thought they were.

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. Dave98373 says:

    Shock collars are cruel and do not provide positive control over a dog. When is a leash a leash? This judge is apparently willing to take on the definition of what a leash is….all at taxpayer’s expense, of course.

  2. computer1015 says:

    It never fails to amaze me that some people don’t realize that their doggie-woggie may not everyone’s idea of a soul mate.
    If you must take your dog for a walk in public areas, please use a leash.

  3. You never know when a dog will determine that a stranger is a danger to themselves, their territory, or their family. Fluffy to the family will become Killer to the stranger if they determine there is a threat. Leash laws save everyone concerned – Fido, their master, and the stranger – from unnecessary encounters and injury.

  4. Chippert says:

    While I agree with almost everything that this editorial says, I do feel it important to correct one point: electronic collars do not depend on line of sight, any more than your cell phone does. They work just fine around corners, through brush, etc. And as far as Dave98373’s comment: they may be cruel IN YOUR OPINION, but an electronic collar are effective tools that can be used in training behaviors at a distance. I do wish that people who make such statements would include the simple “in my opinion” caveat.

  5. Cheryl Tucker says:

    Chippert: Sorry if my wording in the editorial wasn’t clear. I realize that the device will work even if the user can’t see the dog. What I meant (and I was hoping the next sentence about the dog going around a bend would make that clear) was that if the owner can’t see what the dog is doing, he wouldn’t know that needed to activate the device.

  6. We’re a society that depends on electronics and fancy
    gadgets way too much. That includes public safety types.

  7. cobound says:

    Give me a break. Is this really news worthy? Good for that guy, he got away from paying another b.s. fine. Should he have been repremanded and informed of the law? Absolutely. Do we need to fine our citizens every time they turn around? Well only if you want them to become so fed up that they’re ready to leave this state entirely. That’s where I’m at, I’ve lived here my entire life and I’ve had it with all the fines and money grubbing public officials in this state.
    Two years ago my dog escaped my yard and barked at my neighbor…yes he only barked. Animal control deemed my dog a potentially dangerous animal and it cost me thousands of dollars and two years of work to get it corrected. It’s because of overbearing government that I’m packing my bags for a new home in a RED state!

  8. papasan says:

    @cobound: Rules (Laws) are there for the protection of/from the stupidity of others. FINES are there just in case you still don’t get it, or you think that the Law doesn’t apply to you. Enjoy life in your RED State. I assure you, you WON’T be missed. In fact, maybe you can take a few more naysayers with you.
    Back on point:
    I don’t get it with dog people. They need their own little park, because sane people would rather not have their crotch sniffed by someone else’s drooling mutt. The little gifts that someone’s “Precious” left behind is always visible from 100 yards away, because of course, they are just TOO special to have to pick up after their dog. They take them everywhere. I encountered one IN Safeway, carried in the arms of a woman that looked like she was just TRYING to be on a page from Vogue (the song, NOT the magazine). I brought this to the attention of the store Manager who told me that they were powerless. “These people always CLAIM that it’s a service dog and threaten legal action.” I’m sorry…. HUH??? I’m going to get me a pot-bellied pig, fatten him up to about 4 ton (metric, not standard), put a leash on his ass and take him for a walk through the produce aisle. “Hello, Law firm of Dewey, Screwim and Howe In the car, locked up tight, both windows rolled up high, panting, barking ferociously at EVERY strange person or noise, sits little “Precious”. Scared out of his mind because his “Master” just HAD to take him for his walk and that fits PERFECTLY in his schedule of dropping off the Dry Cleaning, getting a manicure and stopping at COSTCO for a “few things” that fill up three flat-bed carts, four baskets and the bed of the Monster Truck “Grave Digger”. If you point out the fact that poor “Precious” is half dead from near heat stroke (in-car temp on a day where the air Temp is 78 degrees F equals about 90+), he just can’t be bothered with details. “Precious just LOVES his rides with Daddy, don’t he, huh, ths my iddy biddy widdle snooky ookums”. GGGAAAAAG.(I think I threw up in my mouth a little!)
    I have made a solemn vow this Summer. If I see a dog, locked in a car with the windows rolled up tight and the outside air temp. is above 78 I’m gathering up the nearest rock, parking bumper, Chevy “Volt”, or other tiny pseudo-car, and using said device to smash out the window and save poor “Precious” from his myopic, self-centered, egocentric, imbecilic, owner.
    Maybe I’ll get lucky and go before the same Judge. I’ll just plead insanity. “I was just cwazzy for the iddy biddy widdle muffy woofy.” GGAAAAAG!

  9. cobound says:

    @ papasan Wow you sound pretty uptight! Ya know they say pets can be very cathartic, maybe you should get yourself a little French poodle?

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