BY LUKE DAYKIN
Sydney, we have a problem that we need to talk about and it is off-lead dogs.
Now I know that I have already lost many of you already as you will be thinking this will be another article enforcing the rules of the nanny state, but that’s not really what this is about.
We are fortunate enough to have our furry family members in our lives for such a short time and that short time we have with them is their whole world.
When you allow your dog to walk around the streets without a lead you are playing Russian Roulette with their short lives. There is no other way to put it. You are not a responsible dog owner.
It only takes a matter of seconds for a dog to become distracted by just one of the thousands of stimuli assaulting their ears, eyes and nose, many of which you’re not even aware of and have no control over.
Prevent sad endings
I have witnessed the results of such distractions on many occasions while walking my own dogs, and it is a sad ending with the dog either rushed off to a vet clinic or killed instantly by a car.
That’s a family member gone in the blink of an eye, a family member whom someone loved, and ultimately it’s a betrayal by whoever was walking the dog because you couldn’t keep that family member safe.
Many people I witness on a daily basis don’t even own a lead.
Then there’s the issue of how your fellow Sydneysiders interact with off-lead dogs.
So when your off-lead dog goes barrelling down the footpath, or walks past or approaches an individual, you expect that person to be a hundred per cent ok with this, because you like dogs and you live in your own little bubble.
But your fellow Sydneysiders may not be okay with off-lead dogs.
Just as dogs are unpredictable and might run in front of a car, they may also take a dislike to an individual because that person appears to be threatening, or makes a sudden movement, or shies away from your beloved pet, and they might bite a stranger on the street or in the park or on a pavement.
I can hear the excuses in my head as I write this: “But my dog is good,” “my dog is well trained,” “my dog usually behaves well”. None of this matters.
I often hear these excuses as an off-lead dog comes racing towards my furkids and me on our walks, completely unresponsive to the owner’s calls or commands.
While mine are socialised and well trained I acknowledge they are animals that may react unpredictably in any situation they are presented with.
I can tell you that on our walks around Darlinghurst, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Woolloomooloo we encounter anywhere between five and twenty off-lead dogs on our average hour and a half stroll.
By allowing your dog to roam off-lead you have opted to put your fellow Sydneysiders in an uncomfortable position, possibly exposing them to traumas associated with their past.
They may not have even been bitten in the past. Sometimes it’s just cultural. If you have travelled to different countries – Cambodia, Thailand, Egypt and India to name just a few – you might have seen the large packs of stray dogs that wander the streets looking for food. They are desperately thin, with exposed ribs, so is it any wonder why an individual from a different background may fear dogs and seek to avoid them.
Be a responsible dog-owner
We also share this world with people who aren’t exactly nice. They bait dogs and leave food contaminated with objects like fish hooks, nails and sometimes even drugs because they get a thrill from knowing that this may hurt an animal, even though they will never see it happen.
So if your dog is off-lead, is metres ahead of you, sticks its nose in some bushes and has a nibble, how do you know what it’s eaten? You have no control over that and it can be a painful sad end for your furry family member.
With Easter approaching, be warned that some of the schools around Centennial Parklands do like to have their Easter Egg hunts in the off-lead areas. The kids’ excitement can be infectious and lead to sorry encounters between child and dog. I discovered this the hard way.
So be a responsible dog owner, keep your furry family member safe and consider the impact of your choice to allow your dog off-lead on other people and their furkids.