Friday, July 22, 2005

Defining responsible pet ownership

Moment to Paws by Christine Ferguson

Christine Ferguson

If you read the Letters to the Editor column or Miscellaneous submissions in the Classified Section on a regular basis, you will see that many valley residents are quite upset by what would be called irresponsible pet ownership.

Citizens are tired of having to pick up dog waste from their yards (which did not get deposited by a member of their household), and they are bothered by dogs off-lead that are not under the control of their master.

You can't blame the dogs because they only follow the guidance of their owners.

The fact that many of us have extremely friendly dogs who haven't learned or embraced their basic obedience rules, allows for many a free spirit to greet the public by jumping up to make eye contact. This doesn't sit well with the well-dressed person, or neighbor who isn't "a dog person." It also can be quite scary for mom's out-and-about with their toddlers.

While it's fact that Blaine County Law permits dogs to be off-lead in many valley areas, they are still required to be within 10 feet of verbal command. My dog doesn't "get" the 10-feet rule, so I walk at all times with a poopy pickup bag and leash in tow. I allow her to run free when the situation supports such behavior, but leash her up when I see people approaching.

Dogs are required to be on-lead at all times in city parks and at most trailheads. This point of information probably sounds quite funny to any of you who frequent these destinations, as they are playgrounds for the free running dogs of this valley. However, we all need to be aware of laws and rules in place in our community, and strive to abide by them.

The dog laws in Blaine County are not strictly enforced at this time, because of the limited animal control resources. We guess that maybe 25 percent of the dog owners in Blaine County license their dogs. If more people licensed their dogs, the revenue would help support the shelter's animal control and impound services to the public, and most likely reunite dogs with their owners more quickly.

Remember that while you might embrace the arrival of a visiting dog on your back porch, there are many people who feel intimidated by the presence of any canine stranger. We receive many dogs at the shelter from citizens who felt the visiting dog a threat to their family's safety.

At the Animal Shelter, we encourage members of the community to come walk one of our shelter dogs. Before they leave the building, they are given a dog waste pickup bag and leash for their trek down Croy Canyon.

We encourage all of the dog owners of our community to respect the 10 feet rule, leash laws and license their dogs, to make the Wood River Valley a model dog friendly destination.

Christine Ferguson is the President of the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley

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