Many dog walkers believe they are great outdoors people. Out in the fresh air at a park or field, or on a trail allowing their dog Fido to do whatever it wants; despite rules, laws and signage that say otherwise. If dog walkers really are conscientious outdoors people maybe they should follow a few simple rules including “Leave no trace” (Know Before You Go, Choose The Right Path, Trash Your Trash, Leave What You Find, Be Careful With Fire, Respect Wildlife, Be Kind To Other Visitors).
If you walk your dog, keep it on a leash so it doesn’t destroy others’ property, intimidate or harass other people or dogs. The part about a dog owner saying their dog is friendly and it won’t hurt anyone is a bunch of crap. Any dog can become violent out of fear for itself or its owner. Plus, some dogs are just plain nasty, especially towards other dogs.
And speaking of crap, if your dog takes a crap – pick it up and throw it in a trash receptacle or take it home with you. Don’t be so lazy or ignorant to leave it lay on someone else’s front yard, at a park or on a trail. And don’t put it in a bag leaving it on the ground for someone else to pick up or sadly, hang it in a tree branch. Dog feces is ranked 3rd on the list of contributors to contaminated water.
Contrary to popular belief, dog feces is not a fertilizer and does not provide any benefit to the soil. Pet feces can be catastrophic to the local water table, contaminating nearby ponds, lakes, rivers and drinking water. When feces is allowed to remain on the soil for long periods, rainstorms will begin to dilute and break apart the feces and slowly spread the bacteria on other contaminants into local water sources. Dog feces may contain parvovirus, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, threadworms, campylobacteriosis, giardia, and coccidia. If left unattended, these parasites will contaminate the water, soil, and can even cause infection in both pets and humans (especially children). The microscopic Hookworm larvae can be passed to another pet or person directly through the skin or by accidental ingestion as can other bacteria.
Humans are capable of contracting hookworms, tapeworms, threadworms and campylobacteriosis. This is the most significant reason to avoid allowing dogs (especially puppies) to lick your face and mouth – affectionately known as “puppy kisses”. If a dog has recently eaten feces or attempted to groom their hind quarters and come into contact with this infectious material, there is a chance the parasites will be passed directly into your mouth.
If you want your dog to run wild take it to a dog park. There are plenty of them right here in the Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem’s Illick’s’ Mill Park, at the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton, Polk Valley Park in Lower Saucon Township, Grange Park in Upper Macungie (new), Fogelsville Dam Park, and Cedar Creek Parkway in South Whitehall (new)).
Please don’t let your dog run loose on a fenced in ball field. They are for sports teams; high school, college and for leagues who usually pay a permit fee to use. It’s not fair for them to deal with dog poo or to play on a recently groomed infield in which dogs have run wild. Also, no dog should ever walk or run on a wet infield! If you don’t know why, think a little, something many dog owners don’t ever do.
Pennsylvania imposes strict liability for all damages where the injuries are severe or the dog previously engaged in dangerous behavior. The state also imposes strict liability for medical bills even without bad behavior on the part of the dog or its owner. In other cases, victims can recover full compensation if the dog owner was negligent or violated an animal control law.
All dogs three months of age or older must be licensed. Licenses are issued by the County Treasurer. All dogs must be under its owner’s control and must not be allowed to run at large. Dogs are personal property, and owners are responsible for damages caused by their dog. Owners of dogs and cats 3 months of age or older are required to have a current rabies vaccination. It is illegal to interfere with an officer or employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture engaged in enforcement of dog laws.
It is illegal to mistreat or abuse any animal. Violations should be reported to a local humane organization or the police. It is also illegal to abandon or attempt to abandon any dog. No dog under eight weeks of age may be sold, traded, bartered or transferred. You may not place any poison or harmful substance in any place where dogs may easily eat it, whether it is your own property or elsewhere.
Locally, dogs running wild have been shot at and even killed by property owners when their livestock and pets were attacked. Dogs on the loose have bitten many a runner, walker and bicyclist leading to charges and payment for medical costs. And there have been multiple cases in the Allentown area when police officers had to shoot violent dogs that were loose.
One sad incident happened when several nuisance dogs continuously running loose in a small Northampton County borough led to the death of a police officer while trying to apprehend the dogs. The owner of the dogs shot the officer killing him. The shooter was convicted of murder.
At a local park, a walker pulled a handgun when he felt threatened by an approaching canine. An argument then ensued with the dogs’ owner. Both men were given citations.
Simply remember, if you are too lazy or ignorant to properly train and control your dog then don’t own one. Dogs must be under an owners’ control at all times and are not to be allowed to run at large. As a dog owner, you are responsible for any and all damages caused by your dog.