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Please Don't Chase the Wildlife

As an animal lover and a person who enjoys hiking with my dogs, I found it disturbing to read that contributor Rebecca Wallick allows her dog to run free through the forest; chasing deer. Her article on GPS tracking devices for dogs, (Sept/Oct 2012 issue) was informative, but her final sentence angers me. Her “knowing that if one day, he disappears after a deer, they will be reunited,” because he is wearing a GPS collar. Is this after the dog has injured, maimed or killed the deer, or any other wildlife that catches his eye?

Another of your writers, Lee Harrington, also wrote how she allows her dog to run off leash; chasing wildlife. Do people not understand how annoying and potentially dangerous it is to allow their dogs to run loose on nature trails, in public parks and recreation areas? This is the main reason dogs are banned from many local, state and national parks. I've had numerous (often frightening), encounters with loose dogs, charging into the faces of my leashed dogs. This culminates to growling, snapping, shouting and aggravating situations. An enjoyable, relaxing activity quickly spirals into a tense, nerve wracking event. People who choose to ignore the posted "All dogs must be leashed" signs, are ruining it for the rest of us.

Do us all a favor, stop this irresponsible behavior. Please keep your dog on a leash when biking, hiking or running in any public nature trail, park or recreation area. It is common courtesy, not to mention common sense. It is safer for all concerned, especially the dog and the wildlife.

—Pat Sullivan
Champlain, NY


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Submitted by Anonymous | February 9 2013 |

absolutely agree...thanks for expressing this...

Submitted by Katie Cook | February 11 2013 |

Not all areas pose the same leash laws, it depends on where you are. I hike many a trails where the posted signs say "leashed OR voice recall". Granted there are irresponsible people that disregard posted signs when it is firmly "MUST BE ON A LEASH AT ALL TIMES". But you can't throw everyone under the bus because some misbehave. I have yet to run into a person with their dog off leash who has presented a problem with me or my dog while out hiking. Unfortunately, it is always the leashed dogs that react aggressively, and I don't blame them. There is a whole science behind why dogs act aggressively when on leash. And just because a dog is on a leash, doesn't mean it can't get away chasing after wildlife, or anything for that matter. Why do you think there are so many lost dogs? Many I bet were on a leash. I think it is less about the leash, and more about training your dog to be ready in any and all situations. Training is key to a happy healthy dog. You can't control everyone else or their dog, so you must be proactive by controlling yourself and your dog. TRAIN YOUR DOG!!!

Submitted by Maggie L. | February 12 2013 |

Pat, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Although my dog is highly reactive on leash, that does not negate her right to enjoy walking on the trails with me. When we meet unleashed dogs wandering free, it becomes a potentially dangerous situation for both animals. With no owner in sight, how am I expected to handle and manage my own dog's reactivity AND monitor the freely roaming dog? My dog would undoubtedly be blamed if there were any injuries as she is a pit bull, regardless of the responsible measures I take when walking her. Allowing dogs to roam off leash is simply selfish, unfair and unsafe.

Submitted by Bob Holderness-... | February 12 2013 |

I totally agree with Pat Sullivan's comments regarding owners who allow dogs off-leash in wildlife sensitive areas. Dogs are a major disturbance to breeding and feeding birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

In 2011 I completed my Masters thesis on the topic of dogs and the environment. If anyone is interested, it's online at http://eprints.utas.edu.au/12310/

Bob Holderness-Roddam, Associate, School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.

Submitted by Disappointed Reader | February 13 2013 |

It is obvious your dog is very leash aggressive. You need to train your dog to feel safe in unexpected situations when on leash instead of blaming others for your dogs issues. I agree and respect the part about the leash laws, but you took the words that were written completely out of context. That was very disrespectful and completely uncalled for.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 14 2013 |

I couldn't agree more, and people who let their dogs run loose like that often look at me as though I am the one in the wrong, not allowing my dogs off leash to run willy nilly, as if my dogs are not enjoying our hike.

Submitted by Katie Cook | February 16 2013 |

They are looking at you that way because they can tell your dog is uncomfortable, and recognizing you probably look uncomfortable as well. If your dog is not comfortable coming across and approaching other dogs, leashed or not, then you should stick to areas you know your dog will feel safe. Then work on training your dog to be more comfortable before returning to those questionable areas.

Submitted by Pat Sullivan | February 21 2013 |

Thank you for your comments on this issue.

My dogs are not 'leash aggressive' or uncomfortable with other approaching dogs or their people. They are friendly and interested, until the loose dog gets in their face, behind them or instigates a situation. No matter how well trained any dog is, I don't believe it should sit calmly and allow a loose dog to attack them. In that case, the blame does lie with the person responsible for the loose running dog.

I am not throwing every dog and handler under the bus. Unfortunately, my experiences with loose dogs has never been good. It is my opinion that for the safety of all concerned, no matter how well trained you think your dog is, that in public access areas, dogs should be leashed.

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