By Don Simonini

It is unacceptable for some dog owners who feel it is their right to let their dogs run free. Those who feel that their dogs should be free to run without owner control are plain wrong. Vermont and town laws are clear: Dogs must be under the owner’s control when off the owner’s property (and unless I am missing something control means a leash or an electric device that limits the dog’s distance to what a leash would accomplish!). Citizens, visitors, and residents, should not be exposed to this kind of indifference and arrogance.

What is wrong with people who constantly write about their dog escaping and note that the dog is not wearing a collar? If you care about your pet, why not at least keep a collar with a phone number on the pet at all times?

For those who want to let their dog run free on their property invest in a GPS collar to teach the dog where his\her roaming limits are. There are simple technologies now available that make a GPS-accomplished perimeter fence (vs. the old-fashioned wired fence) available to anyone with a potential runaway dog. Respect others by investing in this technology.

We will continue to lose our rights of way for trails because benevolent landowners may decide to remove their property from the network because of unruly dogs (and people) who trash or otherwise disrespect the rights of way provided by landowners.

Some quotations from emails sent to me are copied below to illustrate frightful experiences with unleashed\uncontrollable dogs in The Valley:

“An incident near the covered bridge in Waitsfield when a large, unleashed dog relieved itself very close (two feet) from where my friend and I were having lunch”

“I was bitten by a dog just a few years ago and have been terrified of dogs ever since. I do not appreciate people’s presumption that I should love their dog as much as they do. Allowing their dogs to scare, sniff, jump on people, and defecate in public areas is irresponsible.” 

“We have an adorable 30-pound rescue dog. We always have him on leash. Now after a series of attacks from off-leash dogs not under the control of their owners here in this valley, he is now completely terrified of other dogs and now reactive to other dogs. We do our best to avoid all public places to avoid further run ins with out-of-control dogs. But we aren’t always lucky.” 

“Our last incident was on Thanksgiving morning and the women with her 90-pound puppy that apparently “just wanted to play” ran us down from over 200 yards away near the covered bridge. My husband and I fought her dog off, who was lunging and biting at me and our dog, while screaming at her to get her dog and she casually kept walking across the field without increasing her pace. Then she had the gall to accuse us of not being locals because everyone here knows this is the unofficial dog park. She was referring to the field behind the Madsonian. The lack of remorse was astonishing. She never even apologized and in fact blamed it on us, claiming he is just a puppy. After this incident we started carrying pepper spray with us; I pray we never have to use it. It is so frustrating the risk these people put their dogs in when they have no control.”

“The dog situation is getting worse and our community needs to discuss solutions.”

“As town health officer for Waitsfield I get numerous reports that I have to investigate every year of dogs biting people, i.e. causing serious injuries. Injuries requiring stitches, lost work and much pain to the victim. All because people let their dogs off leash and cannot control them.”

“We had our own unpleasant incident here week before last when two off-leash dogs ran onto our property on Palmer Hill Rd., sparking a nasty fight with our dogs (which are Invisible Fence constrained).”

“I'm thinking of approaching the chamber of commerce and The Valley select boards with some kind of proposal to address this problem. For one thing, it's only a matter of time before some human is seriously injured. For another, the animals themselves are being put at risk.

“I got jumped on and nipped by a 100-plus-pound dog on the Blueberry Lake hiking trails because it wasn’t on a leash; owner wasn’t even in sight!”

“Just today I spoke to a Valley resident who was walking in The Valley and was jumped on by a playful 90-pound Lab puppy who was not on a leash nor was constrained by the owner. The dog knocked the person down, broke arm bones, and the person is now having to go to PT for rehabilitation.”

To those who feel your dogs should run free because we live in the wilds of Vermont, please reconsider this attitude and understand that being respectful of all Valley residents and visitors is good for everyone. Or we will start to lose our trail access from benevolent landowners. This hurts us all, both personally and economically.

Please pause and reflect and be respectful of all Valley residents; visitors and other dog owners. Please communicate your concerns and negative dog experiences directly to the Warren, Waitsfield, and Fayston select boards as this is how we can start to help correct this problem. Without direct knowledge from residents and guests, the select boards will not be able to help.

Simonini lives in Fayston.