Keep dogs under control, for others’ sakes and yours

Dwight Harriman
Yellowstone Newspapers

A woman doing yard work west of Bozeman was attacked and mauled by two dogs on June 24. The woman, who is an organ donor, was put on life support after the attack while authorities waited for rabies tests on the dogs to come back, according to the Associated Press.
This horrific event didn’t take place in a far-away state, but right here in Montana. Violent encounters with dogs happen all too often in our neck of the woods. 
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 4.5 million dog bites take place each year. 
Many have had this experience: You are walking or jogging down a public street or sidewalk. A loose dog emerges from an unfenced yard or shows up out of nowhere and starts moving toward you. Are its intentions friendly or aggressive? You stop. It then moves more quickly, hackles up, and starts growling. Even though you aren’t acting aggressively, it is suddenly snarling and snapping at you.
Often when an unleashed dog approaches you on the street, the owner standing passively nearby will say, “Oh, he’s a nice dog, he won’t hurt you.”
He might be nice to you, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be nice to me. 
Yes, sometimes a friendly encounter with a tail-wagging dog can ensue. But too often that “nice” dog comes after you and threatens you — or worse, takes a chunk out of you. 
The problem with all this, of course, is that a dog should never be loose on a street or sidewalk. It’s almost certainly against the law in all Montana towns and cities, unless the area is designated as off leash. No one should have to be threatened by a dog in a public area. And the risk of a violent encounter increases if there’s more than one dog involved, putting them into a pack mentality.
As summer gets into full swing and dogs are outside much of the time, Montana dog owners should remember that. If your dog is in the yard, make sure it is fenced in, and don’t leave gates open. 
And if you take your dog for a walk, resist the urge to let it have a taste of freedom. Keep it on a leash. If it goes after someone, no happiness your dog could experince running free will be worth the hassle and court costs, or worse, the heartbreak, of having it attack and seriously injure somebody.

Dwight Harriman
Yellowstone Newspapers

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