While people applaud cities like Carmel-by-the-Sea, California for being so dog friendly, as a dog trainer I worry about the “anti-leash” trend that is growing. There are many out there that seem to think their dog needs to be off leash 24/7 to be happy, or it’s a pride thing: “my dog is so well-trained, he doesn’t need to be on a leash.” However, there is a tragic side to dogs being off leash and I have to ask, is it really worth the risk? I spoke with Andrea Servadio, co-founder of Fitdog Sports Club, a full service doggy daycare located in Santa Monica, California about leash laws and why she believes every city should have them.
There seems to be a growing trend to not put dogs on leash – why do you think that is?
AS: I’m sure every person has their own reasons for not wanting to put their dog on leash. I find that some people feel guilty that their dog is always kept on a leash and not able to roam freely. I would fall into this category, but due to my dog’s high-prey drive, I would never have him off leash for fear he would run across the street in pursuit of a squirrel.
Others believe that their dog is well-trained and obedient so there is no difference in their dog being on-leash vs off-leash as long as they are with them. Unfortunately, I see this often in Santa Monica, Calif. and the owners are misguided at best because there are a lot of things that can happen to dogs and people in this scenario.
Carmel-by-the-sea doesn’t even had a leash law, do you think that is wise?
AS: Leash laws are important for maintaining a safe and respectful environment for dogs and people. It’s not just about the individual dogs on leash. It’s about deciding how this decision will impact the residents, community and city in broader terms.
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Do you think other cities will get rid of their leash laws?
AS: I hope not. I would like to think that people will consider all of the facts before removing their leash laws.
What are some of the dangers of not having a leash law?
AS: Without leash laws, dogs are able to roam freely and mingle without supervision or approach dogs and people unrestrained. There are many issues that arise in these scenarios. Here are just a few to consider:
- Pet waste is not picked up properly resulting in unkept sidewalks, yards and other areas and also environmental issues
- Dogs are able to get into physical confrontations and hurt each other
- Dogs are able to approach people and potentially hurt them (even if by jumping on them)
- Dogs are more likely to contract illnesses and parasites from other dogs
- Dogs can engage in unsafe behaviors such as eating dog poop or random items off of the ground
- Dogs can harm or kill wildlife in the area
- Dogs that are not fixed can reproduce and cause an increase in stray dogs resulting in a further strain on animal shelters/animal enforcement (and an increase cost to the city and taxpayers)
- Dogs are able to run into the road and cause injury to themselves and other people
- Destruction of property is more common. Dogs are more likely to dig in private or public spaces or spread trash around and chew property.
Without leash laws, the overall effect on a city is negative in terms of safety and also monetarily.
The idea of no leash laws takes me back to the 80’s. I remember a Thanksgiving in Maine where my grandmother put the leftover turkey on the porch (that’s how cold it was) and the neighbor’s dog Coco snuck into the porch, grabbed the turkey off of the shelf and ran down the street with it. It’s menacing to have dogs roaming free.
For those people who say, my dog is well-trained and is always with me, so it’s okay to have them off leash. I would say, your dog can still run into the street and get it by a car. Your dog can still attack or hurt people on the street. Your dog can still kill wildlife. Your dog can still approach people or dogs that do not want to be approached.
Do you think the size of the city matters on whether a leash law should be in place?
AS: I believe leash laws are positive for all cities and towns.
Have you heard of any tragic circumstance resulting from dogs off leash?
AS: Two customers recently informed me that their dogs died while being off-leash. In both incidents, the dogs darted into the road and were hit and killed by an oncoming car. Even if you think your dog is well-trained, it cannot guarantee your dog’s safety. Not to mention that there was damage to the oncoming vehicle and the people inside of those cars were also injured.
When people want to unleash their dogs, in some respects, they are being selfish and short sighted. They are not considering all of the factors and how their decision could endanger others.
Think Before You Skip That Leash
There are so many variables you cannot control, including the fact that your dog, regardless of how well-trained, has a mind of her own. Take them to a dog park, doggy daycare, or a fenced yard for some off-leash time.
Things can happen that you would never have thought possible when you are out and about. Keep your dog and others safe by keeping them leashed up.