Pet Peeves: Roaming Dogs

Sammy, Bones, Archer and Mavis enjoy some good old fashioned dog fun while hiking in the forest near Tumbler. Group hikes are a great way to get dogs to meet and become friends because everyone is always moving and there is tons of neutral space for them to share. Photo credit: Emily Way

Dogs and cats are very different, even though we often compare them. Though I think cats serve a purpose to our outside world, my thoughts on dogs being allowed to roam free are very different.

I am a dog lover. I grew up with dogs, raised eight puppies to the appropriate age to be adopted when I was in my early twenties and think dogs are just the greatest friends a person could ask for. However, if not socialized or trained, some dogs can be very dangerous.

Here in town we have a few dog bylaws regarding the control of dogs. They include: no person can have more than two dogs, dogs must be kept under immediate control when on the owners’ property, dogs have to be on leashes when off owners property in residential and commercial areas, the owner must ensure the dog doesn’t kill or injure a person or pet, and the list goes on. All bylaws can be found on the Tumbler Ridge website.

Though sometimes dogs manage to get out of the house or out of the backyard and it was an accident, the biggest problem is dogs who get out or who are allowed to wander with no social skills.

Let me illustrate with a story.

This past weekend we packed up the dogs (Mavis and Bones) and went on a road trip to visit a friend in Prince George. Mavis is a mutt, a smaller dog weighing about 55 pounds. Bones however is a 100 pound Cane Corso with a heart of gold who thinks he’s small enough to curl up in your lap. He’s just over a year old.

So we showed up at our friend’s house. Immediately upon pulling up to the driveway there was this dog, who didn’t seem too pleased to have visitors…

He is a Karelian Bear Dog about 100 pounds also. The dog was barking at our truck and barely let us up the driveway. I nudged forward very slowly.

We got out of the truck and were told this dog belongs to the neighbours who are rarely home and the dog is always outside. No fence, no leash, no control.

My friend lets the dog hang out and gives him some love. We were told he was friendly so we thought it would be ok to let the dogs play in the backyard, but we were supervising. Our friend had been living in the house for a few months, but we were the first visitors who brought a dog.

As soon as this dog had the opportunity, when all the humans were chatting, he attacked Bones. Bones was the target because he threatened his dominance based on size alone. Bones didn’t even see it coming, neither did we, as he barely showed any signs up until this point.

For the rest of the weekend except for a few times let out to pee, Bones had to stay in the outdoor pen or in the house, in order for him to stay safe.

Now, this extremely stressful and sad occurrence illustrates some very real dangers to dogs being allowed to roam free.

Though this was an extreme case, our bylaws (and those in Prince George) are in place to help keep people and their pets safe, but many feel these bylaws are not being respected by all around town.

Another story, this time from Tumbler. I was walking Mavis down a path and came upon a house with three dogs in the backyard and a fence that could barely keep them in. They were barking at us, growling at us and Mavis put on the brakes to say, “You crazy? I’m not walking by those dogs.”

I forced her to keep going as I wasn’t about to let these dogs think their territory includes the path for everyone’s use. Two of the dogs were almost over the fence barking at us. Scary stuff.

What are our options if we come across a dog who we find to be a threat to public safety? Well, what we can do is call animal control. The dog catcher’s phone number is 250-242-3202. Though many of us are just happy to get past the house without any altercations, residents shouldn’t have to walk their dogs in fear.

Do you think we should have stricter bylaws or more enforcement? How do you feel about the potential of a dog park, where dogs can interact and induce some socialization?