Dog owner responsibility

This proliferation of pets in our society has made it all the more important that people follow the rules.

Wednesday’s story about a dog that was ripped in two by another dog prompted a flurry of comments online.

It was a tragic story for everyone involved. Both animals are dead: one, killed in the incident, the other put down by its owner.

But the story should also serve as a warning to all pet owners. Whether or not people agree that large dogs should be muzzled in public, they understand there must be some controls in place for all animals in public.

Over the last decade there has been an explosion in pet ownership. Where once families had one dog and maybe a cat, it’s now not uncommon to see people walking two and three dogs. When paired with another walker, that can mean five or six animals in one group.

This proliferation has made it all the more important that people follow the rules.

The most basic is that dogs be leashed in public areas (except, of course, in off-leash areas) and that they be under the control of their owner.

The reason is simple safety. Dogs are unpredictable, and even if they don’t have a history of aggression, that can change in an instant.

But there are other reasons; common etiquette. Not everyone appreciates a dog bounding towards them. And even if the animal remains at the owner’s side, the uncertainty can be uncomfortable to some.

Advice on signs along the Vedder Trail offer another suggestion: that dogs be kept to the outside to minimize contact (and potential conflict) with other trail users.

There are other reasons for maintaining control of your pet. The Peach Ponds along Vedder Trail, for example, were created as a salmon-rearing habitat. Dogs splashing into the water disturb and damage eggs that are there to hatch. They also frighten nesting birds in the area.

And one more advantage to a leash: They remind owners whose dogs have  stopped to do their business to clean up the mess. (There’s no guarantee this will occur, or that the owner won’t launch the bagged waste into the bushes where it will hang like some obscene ornament for months to come, but we can hope.)

The most important lesson from last week’s incident, however, is the simple reminder that dogs, no matter how domesticated, are still animals. They may be our pets, but they are also driven by their instincts.

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