Over the years, we have raised guide dog puppies and a few personal pets. Even though we have a very large fenced-in back yard, we prefer to walk as a family to take our dogs for walks along our half-mile cul-de-sac. It provided great training walks for the guide dog puppies as well as exercise for all of our fur babies. What should have been a peaceful excursion was often a path of frustration and even more than once a road to terror. Neighborhood dogs left to roam without supervision would come running to annoy us and our dogs, often resorting to nipping. One dog actually attacked our Pomeranian and our young son who was holding his leash. My husband literally had to tackle the dog and roll him away from our son and dog, resulting in back and leg injuries to himself. We looked toward the house, looking for help to subdue the dog. All we got was the owners peeking through the windows to see their dog causing a commotion and then pulling the shade down to hide from view. Another occasion led to one of the guide dog puppies being bitten. From then on, that puppy became fearful of other dogs and despite intervention by us and the guide dog school, the puppy eventually had to be released from the program, costing the guide dog school tens of thousands of dollars in lost training funds.
More recently, we have been having to deal with another neighbor’s dogs. The neighbors say they rescue dogs and love animals. They have had as many as nine of varying breeds in their back yard with only an enclosed fenced kennel area of about 20’x 15’. They seldom keep the dogs in the enclosed area because they were getting into violent fights. The dogs are kept on cable runs in various places of their huge yard, often in the open sun with little to no shade. They do feed them properly and give them water, but often the dog on the run turns over the water container and is left for the rest of the day with no water and often wraps itself around the pole unable to stray more than a foot or so, since it is unable to understand how to unwrap the cord on its own. The dogs can stay on these runs day and night, sunny weather, 105 degree heat indexes, below freezing temps, storms up to 45 mile an hour gusts with the only shelter being a plastic kennel that the dog may or may not be able to reach. At other times, the dogs are left loose to roam the neighborhood to bark at other dogs, dig deep holes in yards and flower beds, chase cars, annoy walkers, and whatever they decide to do. Either situation is disheartening because the dogs can’t be happy and feeling loved, and the loose dogs are annoying and can be dangerous. The dogs have even begun to jump our fence to bark and bite at our dogs in their fenced area which is supposed to be their safe haven.
Am I just complaining here? Am I trying to be proactive in the situation? Yes, we have talked with the neighbors politely in each and every situation trying to take it as an educational talk about keeping their dogs safe as an emphasis as well as protecting other dogs and property. When that wasn’t enough, we have called animal control and asked them to place their pamphlets in the area to further educate people about the actual laws. We have only called once, recently, asking for more specific help of forcing a neighbor to control their dogs, both on and off their property, properly. When your dog starts to be fearful in their own fenced yard, you know the problem has gone too far. Animal control is doing their part, but the problem is so rampant in the area that they just can’t do a whole lot. The shelter is over full with stray and nuisance dogs which leads the shelter to become a high kill shelter.
This is happening everywhere according to news and statistics. This is what you should know. Loose, uncontrolled dogs are more than just a nuisance. You may think your dog is friendly and wouldn’t hurt a person or even another dog, but it happens all too often, even with the friendliest of dogs. Dogs are often territorial and even beyond their borders with other dogs, if not people. A leashed dog walking down the street can also be a signal to a loose dog as a target for establishing dominance. This makes that dog more than a nuisance to any dog or person in the area, but it is an outright danger to a blind or DeafBlind guide team. A guide dog that is intimidated or attacked even without injury may become damaged or traumatized for life and be unable to work as a guide. You may not understand that because most dogs are confident, but a guide dog’s training teaches them to be gentle and submissive in all cases. If they were noisy and assertive in any way, you would not want them in a public place; so while an intimidating, uncontrolled dog is a threat to anyone or any dog, it becomes even more so to a guide dog team. The blind or DeafBlind person may also be emotionally traumatized, too. Being blind or deaf and blind can cause fear in the best of situations, but it can be debilitating when the person can’t see or even hear what is happening, but can feel the tugs on the leash and know something is wrong with their trusted guide. The person can also be hurt by an attacking dog when they are knocked to the ground or fighting happens around their feet. A peaceful walk to work can become a time of extreme stress or panic.
What is the solution? Pet owners must become responsible dog owners.
- Do not allow your pet dog to roam freely in your neighborhood or to be unsupervised in an unfenced yard.
- Properly contain your dog using kennels, fenced yards that also are designed to prevent digging under and climbing or jumping over the fence.
- Use self-closing gates to prevent accidental release. Inside dogs should be monitored and controlled when people enter and leave the house to prevent darting through and also make sure doors fully close.
- Use a leash when out walking or in unfenced areas, and make sure that the dog is under control at all times by someone strong enough to restrain the dog.
- Socialize your dog properly around people and other animals.
- Learn about dog behavior and take obedience classes with your dog.
- Be aware of local leash laws and obey them.
You will be happier with your pet dog at home, too, and your neighbors will be happier with you.
If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem as the saying goes. If you are part of the problem, you may pay by losing your pet, being fined for disobeying leash laws, and even sued if your dog causes damage or bodily harm. If your dog intimidates or attacks a guide dog team, even without physical injury, you can pay even more dearly. Many states have laws and more each year are passing new laws and strengthening old ones requiring irresponsible dog owners to be financially responsible for the actions of their unsupervised pets, and may be accountable for not only medical costs for injuries, but also the replacement costs of the guide dog which can range from $60,000 to $80,000 for each guide dog. In certain circumstances, the pet owner can also be jailed for up to six months. If you are irresponsible with your pets, it can be costly.
The problem of unsupervised dogs is becoming a widespread epidemic. The danger is rising. My dogs, including my guide dog, and I want to be safe on the road and in our yard. I can do only so much to protect them. The rest is up to other dog owners.
Do you own a dog or plan on getting one? Which group are you going to choose? The solution or the problem?
Find out how widespread this problem is and what you can do to help:
A Blog Post Series that details an attack and its effects on the guide and its handler: