Our Opinion: Avoid the hassle, obey leash laws

Published 10:12 am Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Austin City Council faced a difficult decision this week when it was tasked with what to do with Rock, a 4-year-old pit bull deemed a dangerous dog after several attacks, but it was a position that could have been easily avoided.

The Austin City Council voted Monday to euthanize Rock, who reportedly attacked a man this month, previously attacked mail carriers in 2013 and 2014, and allegedly ran after a father and his 6-year-old daughter walking to Sumner Elementary School in December 2014.

Most, if not all, of the incidents would have been easily avoided had the dog’s owners followed the city’s leash law. No matter the dog, Austin has a plainly stated leash law, which is posted on the city website: “It is unlawful of the owner of any animal (dog or cat) to allow their animal to run at large. Such animals should be restrained and controlled by a competent person. Fines could be awarded in the area of $100.00 for such an offense. An offender may also have to pay for impoundment fees if the animal is placed at the pound.”

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Note, there are not any exclusions to Austin’s rules: Nowhere does it say anything about well-trained or docile pets being an exception to this rule. It’s a catch-all. The vast majority of dog attacks would be prevented if everyone took basic precautions to restrain their pets, meaning their dog is either leashed or only let free in a fenced-in area.

And yes, strange things will happen: dogs will get out of a fenced-in area or a leash will break. But the majority of such incidents are avoidable.

Owners are a bit like parents: They exclusively see the best in their dogs and think theirs is the exception — theirs would never harm anyone. Even if your dog is docile, keep them leashed and under control.

Plus, keeping dogs leashed or in an enclosed area is a courtesy issue, especially for people using public parks and sidewalks to walk or run.

No matter the dog, it’s still an animal. And owners don’t know what a dog is going to do in any given situation. It’s best, and easiest, to use caution.