"Cry, havoc, and let slip the dogs of war." Omit the last two words, and this sentence from Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar" references the many off-leash dogs wandering Salt Lake City neighborhoods.
The Unified Police Code of Greater Salt Lake states that "Dogs shall be permitted to run off-leash only in areas of parks and public spaces specifically authorized by city ordinance, specifically designated by the director of public services as ‘off-leash areas,’ and clearly identified by signage as such."
Though no signage identifies my east-central University of Utah neighborhood and the university campus as off-leash areas, I routinely pass owners with unleashed dogs. They say, "My dog is friendly." I think, so is mine, but he is never off-leash.
No dogs should be running loose in the neighborhood or on campus (not even those brought to work by university employees).
In early August, an off-leash pit bull attacked my leashed terrier-mix. I held my dog’s leash and struggled to keep the pit bull from killing him. Pulled, jerked, and finally knocked down onto the asphalt street, I suffered internal and external bruising of my right hip and abrasions to my right elbow.
I spent four hours getting emergency room X-rays and treatment. I must now pay those medical bills. My dog received puncture wounds and severe bruising. I paid a $200 vet bill. Four weeks later I am still recovering from the injuries. The pit bull and owner are out walking in the neighborhood.
This is not an isolated incident. A recent Salt Lake Tribune article ("Salt Lake City cops ‘chill’ with people to build relations," Aug. 21) includes the comments of a Poplar Grove woman who told detective Brandon Shearer how pit bulls and Chihuahuas run loose in her neighborhood. Once they even attacked her dog. "It makes you nervous," she said.
I am not targeting pit bulls, even though they have been responsible for many reported attacks resulting in bodily harm to humans while accounting for only 3 to 5 percent of U.S. dog ownership. They were also responsible for the majority of U.S. reported fatalities attributed to encounters with dogs in 2012.
While there is a debate about the fairness of breed-specific laws, such as those in Arkansas, California, Iowa and Maryland, they have been shown to be effective. In November 2012, Saginaw, Wash., reported a reduction in dog attacks 18 months after enacting a "light" ordinance affecting owners of the top five dangerous dog breeds (pit bulls, presa canario, bull mastiffs, Rottweilers, and German shepherds). One regulation requires owners to register these breeds at the clerk’s office.
I am targeting owners who ignore leash laws. A neighbor felt uncomfortable when followed by an off-leash Jack Russell terrier while walking to work at the university. Days later, this same dog bit another neighbor. A large off-leash dog knocked down a friend newly recovered from hip replacement surgery.
Dog owners must obey leash laws. All attacks, however minor, should be reported. Animal services officers must enforce the laws fairly and promptly, investigating and processing all violations and reports of off-leash dogs. Victims of dog attacks should not become victims of the system.
Leashed dogs are no less loved than those off-leash. In fact, those who love dogs keep them leashed so that they cannot run into the street to be injured or killed by a passing vehicle. For the safety of people and pets, the mayors and elected council members of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County must take action to ensure that this message is conveyed to the public: A leashed dog is a safe dog.
Maurine Haltiner is a retired Salt Lake School District educator and owner of two happy, leashed dogs.
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