It Takes a Village (to save us from idiots)
Last night two dogs jumped a fence to get into a Minneapolis couple’s backyard and kill their Pomeranian. Local news reports have covered several attacks on dogs and people in recent months and the city council is preparing to approve more stringent laws relating to dog ownership.
“It comes back to personal responsibility and community involvement, with the idea that people need to be responsible for their animals, and people need to call us if we see that responsibility not being met,” explained Dan Niziolek, manager of Minneapolis Animal Care and Control.
While a recently strengthened ordinance resulted in a significant increase in fines, dangerous dog designations, and the number of animals put down, Niziolek says ‘everyone’ needs to stay vigilant. “We can’t be everywhere, we’re dependant on people, if they see problematic situations, that we know about them. If they see at large, aggressive dogs that we are made aware of it,” he said.
It takes a village to prevent dog attacks. Despite leash laws, dangerous dog laws, license laws and dog limits – dogs at large continue to be a problem in urban and rural areas across the country. Passing additional laws related to dog ownership isn’t going to fix the problem. It’s not going to go away until people take responsibility for their dogs. And irresponsible dog owners aren’t going to do this until some combination of peer pressure and law enforcement forces them to do so.
Peer pressure is defined as the cultural forces that drive people to adopt modes of behavior, dress, or attitudes to be accepted as part of a larger group. Despite the strong negative connotations associated with the term, peer pressure is part of the glue that holds a culture together.
We live in a world where, for the most part, dogs are seen as fashion statements or ways to express our individuality rather than as the working partners they evolved to be. This leads to a host of problem owners who either don’t care or in denial when it comes to their dogs’ behavior. If we don’t act soon to rein this irresponsible behavior in, responsible dog owners are going to lose more of our rights.
And that’s just wrong. Its time to change the way our culture sees dogs. Fur-kids, fashion accessories and macho emblems need to be transformed to partnerships based on communication (i.e. training) and responsiblity. If we don’t accept the responsibilities inherent in dog ownership, we’re going to lose our rights.
If you see a dog roaming off leash by itself, call the authorities. A dog roaming loose is probably more danger to himself than he is to anyone else. A responsible owner should be grateful that you helped return their pet to them.
If your neighbor has a problem dog, talk to him about it. Doing this without alienating him can be difficult. It is usually best to approach the situation with a mixture of kindness and firmness. If you are rude or angry, you make it easier for him to ignore you. If you’re tentative or deferential, he won’t take you seriously.
If you come across an irresponsible dog owner on a walk (not picking up after his dog, allowing his dog to lunge at other dogs or people, allowing the dog to eliminate indiscriminately, letting a disobedient dog run loose), look for a polite way to point out why this might be a problem.
–When I see someone walk away from a mess their dog just made, I like to run up to them with a bag in my hand and a smile on my face to ask “You must have forgotten your bags, here’s one of mine.” Most times the person looks a bit sheepish then uses my bag to pick up his dog’s mess. My goal in doing this is not only to get the person to think about his behavior but also to make him realize that other people see his actions and judge them.
If you, a member of your family or your dog are attacked and bitten by a dog – report it to the authorities. If your state has a dangerous dog law, follow up with authorities after the attack to make sure that the dog’s owner complies with the requirements of that law. Most serious attacks that occur are perpetrated by repeat offenders.
If you have a dog license it, train it and supervise its behavior in public. Don’t let it bark incessantly, don’t let it fight the neighbor’s dog through the fence and for doG’s sake, pick up its poop.
It takes a village – and this village certainly doesn’t need any more idiots.