I have seen far too many reports of dog-on-dog attacks recently in my feeds. Even more disturbing is the number which involve a dog being attacked, and the attacking dog’s owner either being unaware or seeing the attack but then leaving without addressing it.
Under the local Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw, Sec 4 (1)(i) states that owners must “ensure that the dog does not bite, wound, or otherwise injure any individual or animal.”. This includes at off-leash parks, or when the dog is on leash as well. While the bylaw outlines penalties for most infractions, it does not seem to address this one. I have heard of many cases that end up with police involved and/or small claims court lawsuits for damages.
Off-leash parks are there for dogs to enjoy some freedom, but they are not areas for uncontrolled animals, aggressive animals or dangerous animals to be allowed to roam freely. They are meant for the safe enjoyment of all. Unfortunately, some people think “off-leash” means “no rules’, which is far from the truth. Off-leash areas have posted rules and limitations that users must observe and obey.
If you see an unruly dog or actions that worry or alarm you, it is best to recall your animal and put it back on its leash. If you’re still worried, leave and return at a different time, when the threat has passed. The best way to prevent an incident is to not be there for it to happen.
Most off-leash parks have committees or boards that regulate rules within the park, and they usually have a contact number or email posted. If you see an incident but don’t want to get involved in the moment, you can contact use these means to offer your observations or photos of the event.
Crowd-sourcing information about incidents is becoming much more common, with every phone capable of taking high-resolution photos and video, and these can be used to bring those responsible for incidents to justice. Hopefully this also works as a deterrent, too.
Our initial reaction when we see a dog being attacked can be to get involved and help by getting between the combatant animals. If you are trained in this kind of activity and have the appropriate equipment to prevent injury to yourself and others, by all means, do so. But, if you are not trained or equipped, you may end up adding to the issue. Especially if your dog is off-leash and loose because it will want to protect you.
Your first reaction should be to recall and leash your pet, and make sure it is safe. Then you can offer support while being careful not to escalate a situation. Support might be something as simple as taking photos or video at the time. Once the animals are separated, you should assist if you have first aid training or equipment for the dogs or people involved. If transportation is needed, either to a vet or hospital, that is another way to help. If the owner of the aggressor is fleeing the situation, with or without their animal, photos of them and their vehicle can be helpful.
I really wish a column like this was unnecessary but unfortunately there are always a few bad apples out there whose actions can ruin things like a carefree day at an off-leash park. By being more aware of the potential for danger we can better avoid it. Some days that means forgoing the off-leash park for a walk on-leash, which can be just as nice if you pick a pretty spot.