Monday, June 16, 2014

But what does a leash really mean?

This bit of mischief does not involve Elka, as I was work.

Somebody came into the library and said there was a brown dog running around in the park with no owners in sight.

So I grabbed my phone and went outside, figuring I could assess whether the dog was approachable and then either catch the dog and call the owner (provided said dog was tagged appropriately) or call the police to come and do their dog wardeny things.

I went out, and the dog was one I recognized as one the owner had claimed was a service dog in order to gain entry to the library. She's a pretty caramel colored girl, well behaved, and I had no reason to doubt such a claim. In the library, she'd just stayed in a Down and not made a move or a peep. Kind of alarmed for the owner, I called the dog, who cast me a happy look and then ran up the hill to the park bench, where the owner sat with two other people, back turned.

I followed, and said the requisite "Excuse me, is this your dog?"

The owner said "Yes, IT'S A SERVICE DOG."

"It's fine if you're here in the park with your dog, but she has to be leashed."

"She's wearing a leash." The owner picked up said leash.

"Yes, she's dragging a leash. I don't want you to get in trouble with the police, and I don't want her to get run over for running into the road or parking lot."

"Oh, she's a service dog. She's very well behaved, she stays right with me. She walks herself." At this point, since the dog had been all over the park BY HERSELF, including at the lower end of the park, which is down a hill and through trees and by another road entirely, I'm beginning to get a little suspicious regarding her service dog nature. But, "service dog" doesn't mean you get a free pass; the dog still has to behave in a matter compatible with the business. Running around loose in a 15 acre "No loose dogs" park isn't really in line with that.

"Just keep her with you." Which was my entire point, really. Lots of people who don't want to be approached by dogs come through the library park. Lots of bikes and skateboards. Lots of cars whipping through the adjacent parking lot. Keep your service dog with you. Good rule of thumb, yeah? I was basing my actions on the ADA Commonly Asked Questions about Service Dogs, where it says "A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others."

As I walked away, the owner yelled "I HATE THIS COUNTY IT'S RACIST." I went back.

"Do you think I came out here because your dog's a pit bull? My dog is a Doberman. I dont' cate."

"So a Chihuahua has to be on a leash."


"There was one out here without a leash."

"Okay, where are they? I'll yell at them too."

"My dog's a good dog. She walks Chihuahuas. She's done this in front of cops."

"All right. Take care."

So....when a law says "Dogs must be restrained by a leash of no longer than six feet", I take that to mean "the owner must be holding the leash while it is attached to the dog." That's kind of what "restrained" means. It's what leashes are for. I'm obviously a fan of them, as training and safety devices (I've reviewed several, from DogIDs bison leather to a multifunctional European leash to the EZYDog Cujo)

 I understand that service dogs go where a dog normally would not be allowed. I also get that service dogs deserve breaks. I wasn't saying her dog couldn't be at the park, I wasn't asking them to leave, I wasn't asking what her disability was or what the dog was trained to do. I was asking her to keep the dog away from the road and the parking lot while nobody was holding her leash.

So, thoughts?


  1. I saw on the news the other night where people can get a "service" dog title via the internet! Service dogs do an invaluable service. Nobody should be able to buy the title. Grrrr, humans!

  2. Ah the old "the leash law doesn't apply to me" excuse machine! I have never heard a service dogs excuse before. The reason situations like this most turn my stomach is the inevitability that some kind, animal loving person will unavoidably hit that "service dog" with a car or a bicycle and the innocent driver/riders life will change forever (not to mention the dogs) just because of one horrifyingly selfish, self-centered person who doesn't believe public safety laws apply to them.

  3. I get very tired of some folks thinking they're an exception to every rule. Can't help but suspect this service dog is not a service dog at all which really troubles me. What really chaps my hide is that this person was not being a responsible pet owner. AT ALL. Good for you for confronting her!!

  4. I wish he had listen to you. It's better for owner&dog to be connected via leash. Even when the dog is an angel on 4 paws, there are a lot of bad things what can happen.

  5. As an animal control officer I have these conversations DAILY. For the general public: If you aren't holding the leash it doesn't count. (By the way, our leash ordinance specifically states that :the leash must be held by person of suitable strength.") For service dogs: I can legally ask "What is the nature of the service your dog provides?" (That always throws the fakers off their game.) The next question is usually "And how does your dog perform that service from 50 feet away?" Pause for dramatic effect "Put your dog on the leash now." Every legitimate service dog I've met is always leashed and well behaved. (BTW, there is a legal difference "service dog" and "emotional support dog.")

  6. Good heavens! That person was very rude. Very. I would consider asking the nature of its service next time it enters the library.

  7. This bothers me because ultimately these people do spoil it for the people who legitimately need service or emotional support animals and do follow all the rules and requirements for having one.

    Service dogs do get time off and need exercise. However, that doesn't mean that time off is unleashed in a public park. Their down time is structured under the same rules that apply to non-service dogs. If they aren't working, they are expected to follow the same rules as everyone else.

  8. I'm stunned you talked to the lady. I am so not that kind of person. Go you!

  9. Wow. It grates on me that some people really take advantage of their disability and think they and/or their dogs can get a free pass on everything. "We want to be treated equally, except we still want to be able to break the law and not be penalized" seems to be their motto.

  10. I'm not a total hard-ass about the leash thing. But if someone has their dog off-leash, it means they have that dog under total, 100% voice control. As good as Honey is, I would not make that claim for us.

    And no, a dog wandering on its own doesn't count.

  11. I imagine the rule is there for a reason, and if you don't want to comply I'm sure there are other places where dogs are allowed to run around off leash, I go to the dog park to run around leash free.

    I hope you're having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

  12. Fortunately, the vast majority of service dogs and their humans DO comply with rules and laws. Most are well-trained and well-mannered and I have NEVER seen one allowed to run loose like this one. The sad fact is, people with medical issues who require a service dog often have to fight for their rights to take those dogs into business, etc. For all the work that has been done to help them, it only takes one totally irresponsible person to undo months and even years of progress. If I were you, I would have called animal control and/or the police and let THEM deal with this idiot. I pray they come to their senses and take better care of their service dog before he gets hit by a car or has something else happen to him.