Let’s avoid unleashing dog laws

During a recent Tyrone Borough council meeting, the police chief and a council member both expressed concern about walking or jogging through the neighborhood because of an unnecessary fear: unleashed dogs.

The issue was raised when Jennifer Leister, a landlord who rents out seven units on three properties in Tyrone, said she is concerned that a lack of a leash law endangers tenants with small children or other dogs.

“What we do not see is any means of protecting the public from dogs at large,” she said. “People aren’t using common sense.”

Leister, and those who share her concerns, are hardly barking up the wrong tree by advocating a leash ordinance.

State dog law requires that a dog must be kept on its owner’s property. The only requirement is that the owner have his or her dog “reasonably” under control. The only statewide leash requirement mandates only that “dangerous dogs” be leashed at all times.

“Reasonably” under control leaves too much discretion. So does a “dangerous dog” label, and an ordinance requiring all dogs be leashed would eliminate subjective measures.

Even the most responsible dog owner can’t predict when his or her dog might chase off after another animal, or even another person. All it takes is one unpredictable impulse from the animal before the possibility increases of someone or another pet being harmed.

And even if a dog is trained exceptionally well, what about children who might have a fear of unleashed dogs? Should small children who are fearful of dogs for whatever reason really be subjected to discomfort because a dog isn’t on a leash?

A leash ordinance would offer protection to dog owners as well. Unleashed dogs who aren’t controlled pose a number of risks to their owners, from medical costs incurred if their dog attacks a person or other animal or if their pet is hit by a car while roaming free.

The issue extends beyond just the Tyrone Borough. While many Blair County municipalities fine dog owners whose pets leave their property, many areas lack an explicit leash requirement.

Only a pair of northern Blair County townships, Snyder and Antis, have measures in place that Tyrone could model.

While it’s commendable that Snyder and Antis townships have been proactive, it’s time for other municipalities to follow suit and put dogs on a tighter leash.