‘On a leash, period’ – Dog attack at river sends up red flag to pet owners
On a lazy day early in June, Nina and Richard Hill decided to go swimming at Jones Bar off Highway 49.
The two brought Bailey, their 13-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, along on the hike down to the South Yuba River swimming hole, for what they thought would be a relaxing getaway.
Soon after, they were rushing to a veterinarian, after two other dogs had attacked Bailey. The other dogs were reportedly not on a leash – which is against local laws.
This incident highlights what authorities say is a little-known but growing problem in the county.
“People feel they are out in the country and their dogs are free to run around – the (dogs) become a nuisance,” said Nevada County Animal Control Lt. Ron Earles. “Warnings are a thing of the past and citations will be issued. Enforcement is being kicked up.”
Nina and Richard Hill looked for an unpopulated spot as they hiked down to the water. On the way down, they ran into a young woman who told them her boyfriend was down by the water with their two dogs.
“She said, ‘There’s two dogs and they are with us and they are friendly,'” Nina Hill said.
After making their way to the river, part of the South Yuba River State Park, Richard and Bailey went back to the car to get sunblock, while Nina swam.
“I had gotten in the water and saw (the owner) and saw the two dogs by themselves (on shore),” she said. “Red flags went up for me.”
When Richard and Bailey returned, Nina Hill said, the two bulldogs began to casually walk in their direction. When their owner called for them to come to him, the dogs charged at her dog, she said.
“My dog ended up with puncture wounds in her leg and a hole in her ear … and giant welts on her back,” Hill said.
Richard Hill was also bitten on his hands, she said.
“At a state park, dogs have to be on a leash, period,” said Larry Clark, the supervising officer for the South Yuba State Park.
In fact, within the county, dogs almost always have to be on a leash. Laws differ slightly between Grass Valley and Nevada City, and the county and state parks.
“It’s against the law. We do enforce it,” Clark said. “But it is also for the protection of the dogs.”
Hill said she and her husband were aware of the law and had their dog on a leash. The other couple denied this, saying that all three dogs were not leashed, Clark said.
In Grass Valley or Nevada City city limits, dogs cannot be off an owner’s property without a leash, according to Grass Valley Animal Control, which oversees both towns. That leash has to be no longer than six feet, and dogs are not allowed in city parks, even if they are on a leash.
Within the county, dogs can be on a leash or under the direct voice control of the owner – the owner has to be able to call them at all times and have the dog respond immediately, Earles said. Dogs have to be within 10 to 15 feet of the owner, he said.
In state parks, dogs have to be on leashes at all times.
“It’s to make people responsible for their dogs,” Clark said. “A lot of it comes down to common sense – we want people to be considerate.
“The dogs get loose and get into fights. There was so much dog feces (in and near popular swimming holes).”
Clark said that the problem has gotten to be so bad that several sections of state parks – including a popular swimming hole near the Highway 49 Bridge over the South Yuba River, and near Bridgeport, from the covered bridge, upstream for a quarter mile – do not allow dogs at all May through September.
“It’s the heaviest-use areas that we have had the most trouble with,” he said.
Hill said that after her dog was attacked, she asked the young woman and her boyfriend for their names and phone number, so they could help with the veterinary bill and possibly with a rabies test.
“When I told them about the leash law,” she said, “they got scared and gave me a fake phone number.”
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