Editorial: Unchained: Don’t let your doggies wander

November7cartoonTo leash or not to leash?

This is a question that has sparked debate among people for years. For many, it is hard to imagine that your sweet, snuggly dog could ever show any aggression. For the most part your pup comes when called and you can’t see how any person in their right mind would be uncomfortable around dogs. Why shouldn’t your four-legged friend have the privilege of running free until its little heart is content? Simply put: Baylor is not a dog park.

First and foremost, it’s against the law in the city of Waco and against Baylor policy. A full list of Baylor’s on-campus pet policy can be found online.

With the addition of green space on campus and the increase in college students fostering and adopting, the number of off-leash dogs seems to have increased. For those who stick to the leash laws, being in an area where dogs are wandering unrestrained can be extremely stressful.

The scenario goes like this: One dog is on the leash minding its own business when the owner notices another pooch headed in their direction.

The dog on its way over is off leash and its owner is somewhere behind, calling for it to come back. The dog doesn’t listen, as it is bound and determined to check out the on-leash dog.

If you are the owner of the tethered dog, a multitude of thoughts begin to run through your head.

Be nice. Can I scare this dog off? Is that a friendly sniff? Which tail positioning means they are uncomfortable? Oh Lord, the hair on the back of their necks is at attention! Please don’t bite that dog! If they get in a fight, should I get in the middle?

Then the dog’s owner yells, “My dog is friendly!”

While this may be true, the other dog may not be as inviting. It is important to understand that not every dog does well in puppy play groups. That doesn’t make it a bad dog, it just means that it likes to walk alone.

Even if they are both historically sociable, the dogs could sniff each other wrong and decide it is tussle time, or they may agree they love each other so much they must immediately begin playing chase at full speed.

Either way, it doesn’t end well for the owner that gets tangled up in the leash.

When a dog is under the control of its biped, meaning the pup is on a leash, it is less likely to get into something it’s not supposed to. Even on a campus as well kept as Baylor, there is always the chance that during an off-leash romp-and-roll a dog will get curious.

It may eat something it’s not supposed to, fall into a hole, get tangled in a bee hive, drink from a puddle of polluted stagnant water or eat a dead animal. Plus, there are always glass, thorns or fencing that a dog can get caught up in.

And what happens if he encounters a skunk outside of the Castellaw Communications Center? For the sake of your dog and your vet bill, keep the little explorer on a leash.

While keeping Fido unrestrained can end in poor results for himself or other dogs, it can also take its toll on unwilling bystanders.

Not everyone is physically able to withstand a dog jumping on or running into them, even if it’s a nice one. Children and the elderly are especially at risk, as they are more vulnerable to being knocked down and accidentally getting scratched up.

Oftentimes, dogs may feel threatened by runners on the Bear Trail or they may simply cross paths with an unfamiliar person. Because every dog is unpredictable to an extent, it is impossible to ensure the safety of other humans.

People have the right to walk or lounge in public without being confronted by loose dogs, but dog owners do not have the right to let their canines run free.

In Texas, a dog owner is held liable for any injuries sustained if the injury was caused by the negligence of the person handling the dog, the intentional acts of the handler, a violation of an animal control law (e.g., the leash law) or the owner knew the dog has shown aggression or bitten someone before.

An owner has an absolute duty to protect others from the dog.

While this can seem harsh, it is meant to protect both the public and the dog from negative consequences. As friendly as a dog may seem, when it perceives a threat or is provoked in some way, it can be very dangerous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 800,000 Americans are required to seek medical attention for injuries caused by dogs.

On a lighter note, as foreign as it may seem to some, there are people who just don’t like dogs. They don’t want to have dog hair on their perfectly laundered pants, slobber disgusts them and they find no joy in the sweet smell of puppy breath. Even these people deserve respect.

There are a number of parks where dogs can enjoy off leash playtime and owners who are comfortable around dogs and accept the responsibility of any incident can congregate.

Being a responsible dog owner is more than just supplying the chow, flooding your house with snazzy chew toys and debating potty training techniques.

Owning a dog means you have to understand that all dogs are unpredictable and accept responsibility for anything that may occur, even if provoked.

If you can’t be a conscientious dog owner and also obey the law, maybe you should get a hedgehog or a turtle.

Overall, keeping your pouch on a leash protects you, your dog and everyone else around you.