A few nights ago my 16 year old dog was attacked on a dog walk by an off leash dog. The dog rushed at my leashed companion, and when we tried to walk away, it jumped her.The dog bared its teeth, grabbed her by the shoulder, and yanked her down. Luckily the flashlight I carry doubles as a stun gun. I pulled the trigger into the air and the sound and air-spark was enough to make the dog let go and run away. Of course the owner came running up, saying “sorry, sorry, sorry.” Now my 16 year old girl is left with a huge limp and an apology.
This is the second time my dog has been attacked, the other time being in Salt Lake. That time I was left with $400 in vet bills and my dog was left with tubes coming out of her back to let fluid drain and a cone around her head. Of course, the owner of the dog that attacked us scurried off, never to be seen again.
As I’ve written before, I don’t think the answer is more laws and more enforcement. Frankly, if a dog owner has an aggressive dog and is walking them off leash, the small chance that animal control is going to ticket them likely doesn’t even weigh on their mind. They’ve already crossed the Rubicon. They are being selfish and putting their own best interest in front of the rest of the community.
It’s also not fair to punish those dogs and owners who have their dogs under control (leashed or not). I’ve been in Utah 10 years, and probably walked my dog 7,000 times here. I’ve had two incidents. That’s 0.02% of the time.
Yet, I’ve had enough. Even 2 times, when an off leash dog hurts my dog, is too many. Perhaps I should have realized it sooner.
So what am I going to do? Carry and use pepper spray. If I have my dog on leash and an off leash dog approaches aggressively on a trail, sidewalk, or road I will pepper spray the dog. You may think that is cruel. What I have come to understand is that not protecting my best friend is what is cruel. It’s not fair for owners, who know they have aggressive dogs, to allow them to inflict damage on our companions and then simply walk away from it.
In a best case world, owners with aggressive dogs will realize their is a potential downside to their poor decision making and will leash their dogs. Problem solved. In a less best-case world, their dog will be sprayed with pepper spray. There will be no long term impact to their dog. However my dog will be fine and they’ll likely need to spend time dealing with the situation. This is the exact opposite of what happens now; the owner’s dog who is attacked has to deal with it and the aggressor walks away.
Before the hate mail arrives please let me explain what I am not doing. I am not randomly planning on spraying off leash dogs that are under control, dogs behind a fence (electronic or otherwise), or a 2 year old lab “puppy” that is so excited that it may accidentally run into me, my dog or my kids. Like a concealed weapon, you always have to assess the situation and the surroundings. You only act when you or someone else (even your dog) is in danger.
I’m also not advocating being a jerk on the trails. I’m a huge proponent of Charlie Sturgis and Mountain Trails “10 seconds of kindness” campaign. I’m also not advocating pepper spraying dog breeds purely on the basis of bad reputation (pit bulls, rottweilers, akitas, etc.). I firmly believe most people and dogs do the right thing.
Yet, now I realize I need to protect my dog from danger and I’m willing to use a non-lethal method to ensure that she is OK. Some people may say something like, “if you even think of pepper spraying my dog I’ll sue you.” The problem is that if my dog is on leash and if your dog is off leash, acting aggressively, and approaches me in a manner that I feel is threatening and I pepper spray your dog, you are not going to win that legal battle.
The other thing to note, that I think often goes unsaid, is that the size of the dog doesn’t matter. My dog was attacked by a bichon (a very small dog) in Salt Lake and it ripped my dogs neck to pieces. In the latest incident it was a medium-sized mixed breed dog that drug her to the ground.
My hope is that owners of aggressive dogs will do the right thing and make sure their dogs are always on leash outside of their property. If not, I am no longer going to allow their lack of responsibility to negatively impact those who I love.