Dog control laws need some interpretation
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 6:33 am

To the Editor:

On July 4, I was part of a small walking group of three adults with two large, leashed dogs enjoying the new trail from Maple Street to Bayside Cemetery in Potsdam.

It is beautifully wide and easy to walk. A refreshing breeze cooled us as we stopped at the tiny beach by the boathouse for our dogs to wade and drink, and I appreciated the ability to do this on-leash.

We met runners, walkers, babies in strollers and other on-leash dogs. Many times, we pulled to the side and had our dogs sit while people passed. I am thankful for this trail. Right down to the cheery send-off by plein air artist, Becky, who waved her brush at us and wished us a “Happy 4th”–it was a lovely walk, except for one thing. Off-leash dogs without owners in sight. Don’t get me wrong—I have seen people run or walk that trail with very well-behaved, off-leash dogs; dogs on an “invisible leash.” I am not talking about them. It is clear who the alpha is with those teams—anyone can see it; other dogs can sense it.

Unfortunately we encountered the opposite. Our group strolled around a bend to find three large, loose dogs, with no owner in sight. Mayhem ensued, barking from all canines, tightened grips on our side. My friends and I stood our ground while the three loose dogs jumped at us until their owner came into view.

Did she apologize? No. She claimed angrily and repeatedly that her dogs were “friendly” and our dogs “attacked them.” We found this baffling, as she was not in sight of her three dogs, and our two were on six-foot leashes. It was the worst of such incidents we have seen along that trail.

There have been lesser incidents. I am not an animal behaviorist, so I am not going to speculate on the theories as to why a leashed dog responds differently to a loose dog, versus another dog on a leash.

With no signage on that trail, the woman with three harassing, loose dogs clearly felt she was in the right. Was she? I wonder how that woman’s three dogs would have behaved if they had come around that bend to find a frail person walking a Chihuahua, or pushing a baby stroller. Does she know how her dogs would have behaved? I don’t think so.

Even if your dog is friendly; even if your dog is obedience-trained; a leash provides insurance when you are not in a fenced yard or private property.

I don’t know who that trail belongs to—Clarkson or the Village? The experience prompted me to read the Potsdam Dog Control Laws for the first time. The web link is: http://ecode360.com/6828548. I can see how those definitions might need some interpretation.

The woman with three loose dogs may have felt that she “had control” because, when she finally came around the bend and called to them, the three dogs responded... But the way I read those laws, it is about maintaining control—hard to do when you cannot even see your dogs. There is also a definition in those laws of a “pack” of dogs, strictly forbidden to run loose. Guess how many dogs make a pack - Three.

If the folks who own the trail are fine with loose dogs out of sight of their owners, I respect that; but please make your wishes known.

Having just discovered that trail, I am sad to think of not walking on it out of fear of meeting a pack of loose dogs. How about allowing off-leash dogs on odd days of the month, and on-leash dogs on the even days and posting a sign to remind everyone?

I am pretty sure I am not the only person who loves to walk for miles with my dog, on-leash.

Wendy Turnbull

Potsdam