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Take the lead with your dogs Kate Davies | Fri, Mar 25 2011 02:40 PM

Six years ago I was walking my dogs, Boscoe and Mordecai, around the block at 6 p.m., as had been our habit for many months. I blithely rounded the last corner and found myself suddenly entangled in a maelstrom of leash, fur, teeth, and blood.

My neighbor's dogs were off-leash in their unfenced front yard and, seeing 'intruders', attacked my dogs. I was screaming like a banshee as my dogs, restrained by their leashes, tried unsuccessfully to defend themselves.

Their leashes wound tighter and tighter around my legs as I tried desperately to protect my dogs and myself. All I could hear over the snarling and yelping was the cry from the other owner, "I didn't think anyone would be walking their dogs right now!"

I ended up at the hospital with multiple bite wounds and my dogs ended up at the vet with the same, and since that incident, Boscoe has not been able to tolerate even the sight of other dogs, especially on a leash.

"If an off-leashed dog approached a leashed dog, the leashed dog is at a disadvantage," says Kim Smith of Pit Bull Rescue San Diego. "So many of the bites involving humans happen because the human is trying to protect their dog, a dog that is often legally leashed."

What many people don't seem to understand is that the leash laws are in place not only to protect their dogs, but to protect those of others.

Some people think that their dog doesn't need to be on a leash if it is friendly. This is not the case at all.

Recently I was walking Boscoe around the block when I spotted a couple of young men playing with an off-leash dog in their front yard. I hesitated, thinking I would backtrack, when the dog spotted us and came trotting in our direction. Immediately, my heart started racing as Boscoe started snarling and pulling in the other dog's direction. I started yelling at the other owners to call their dog to them. "Don't worry," they replied, "he's friendly."

"But my dog isn't! He will seriously hurt your dog!" I told them. That sent them into action and a fight was narrowly avoided.

What really annoyed me though was the way they looked at me as if the near-altercation was my fault. My dog was properly leashed and within my control. Their dog was off-leash and not listening to their command to return to them. I was being responsible, but if their dog had been seriously hurt I am sure that somehow Boscoe would have been blamed because he was the aggressive one out of the two.

"I own a Golden Retriever that is not dog-friendly", says Smith. "I specifically don't bring her to off-leash areas because I want to be responsible, yet it seems that nowhere is safe from people who feel entitled to disobey the law and leave their dogs loose."

Thousands of dollars are spent every year at vet's offices because people think that the law doesn't apply to their friendly dog. It does. Leash laws exist to protect everyone - the dogs and the people on the other end of the leash.

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