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Gone to the dogs

Dogs should be able to run free sometimes.

At least that’s what dog owners have said in defense of their dogs after they have bitten, tripped or harassed a runner or walker, or other dogs or animals.

But should they?



A call to Animal Control & Protection directed me to their Web site, http://www.mynevadacounty.com for specifics regarding whether or not we have a leash law in Nevada County.

Although I was told outright that we don’t, read for yourself Sec. G-IV 1.47 (Animals Running at Large Prohibited) of the Humane Animal Control laws:




“An animal shall be deemed at large anytime it is off the premises of its owner and not under direct control of the owner by means of leash, chain, tether, adequate fence or other effective device.”

Sounds like a leash law to me.

Ah, but then there are the exceptions to this rule, which include hunting or working animals, and:

“Animals in the immediate presence and under direct control of the owner. This means the animal is in the proximity of the owner and the owner can demonstrate effective control of the animal. Effective control can be demonstrated by the dog obeying simple instructions such as “come,” “sit,’ ‘stay’ and ‘heel’ within 20 seconds of the command being given.”

Twenty seconds?

That’s a long time.

Just ask the woman who was attacked in her apartment building by her neighbors’ dogs in San Francisco in 2001 after coming in from a run.

Oh, that’s right, you can’t.

The dogs killed her.

In 20 seconds, a lot can happen.

My son, at age two, was looking in a store window when a sitting German shepherd unexpectedly leaped and bit the back of his neck.

My wife, out walking her two Pomeranians on leashes in Sacramento, had two Rottweilers attack and try to kill her dogs.

Last year, in San Francisco, a woman out walking her dog was mauled by five pit bulls when she tried to protect her dog from their attack.

Look it up on the Web. There are numerous stories of runners attacked by dogs.

Most runners I know can offer tales of frightening experiences with dogs on the run. I ended up with a six-inch red scratch from the tooth of a poodle, whose owner told me the dog didn’t bite me. True, it didn’t clamp down, but my arm was in its mouth and I sure didn’t put it there.

Admittedly, most dogs are not vicious, but all it takes is one who is.

And, even when they are friendly, dogs on the loose can prove to be hazardous to runners.

There have been many occasions when I have had dogs run head on at – and sometimes into – me, tripping me, with the owners calling them back, walking with the leash wrapped around their hand. Sure the dog responded in 20 seconds, but the damage was done.

There are a number of breeds of shepherding dogs, who like to run almost right under your feet, trying to herd you (I guess off the trail and into the bushes!).

Last week, running peacefully along a trail in Grass Valley, a black dog, waist high, ran playfully at me and proceeded to get tangled in my feet, although I never changed direction, causing me to trip and almost go headfirst into the ground.

Believe me, there are plenty of rocks, roots and holes out there that can cause falls, and I have the broken elbow to prove it.

Moving obstacles make it even more of an adventure. I’ve had to change my stride with legs in mid-air more times than I can count, thanks to squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, skunks and cats, to name a few.

But the only animal that has ever tripped me on a run is the dog.

Let’s face it, when faced with the choice of having fun “herding” (or chasing) a runner or obeying their masters, most dogs, I have found from experience, will choose fun.

Almost every dog owner I’ve talked to about this issue has said it’s not the dog’s fault, but the owner’s for letting the dog run free in a public place.

Sure, dogs should have fun, but not at the expense of people.

Runners and walkers shouldn’t have to be afraid whenever a dog appears on the road or trail near them.

As the dog owner, how would you feel if your dog bit or killed someone? Or what if your dog innocently tripped a runner who fell and broke an arm or leg after training for years to reach a level of excellence and now can’t run for months, wasting all their hard work?

And on a somewhat lighter note, is it really necessary to leave dog excrement on the trails? I was really surprised to find a clump on the paved Litton trail a month ago, and even more so to find a pile in the first lane on the high school track this year.

If, in fact, dogs have to be under the direct control of their owner, then the “presents” they leave should be cleaned up. ‘Nuff said about that.

I admit I’ve had a history of being chased by dogs. As a young teen, doing my paper route, the biggest dog I’ve ever seen, almost the size of my 10-speed, chased me from behind and, much to my dismay, began vigorously humping my back tire, hopping along on two legs while I was frantically trying to pick up speed and ride away as fast as I could.

Sounds like a scene that would fit perfectly in a movie like There’s Something About Mary or American Wedding.

ooo

Steve Bond is a competitive runner who lives in Grass Valley and writes a weekly column or feature on running for The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at stillrunning5@sbcglobal.net.


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