I Think People Who Violate Leash Laws Are Ignorant Jerks! What Do You Think?

I won't mince words: People who ignore leash laws are selfish, ignorant, and have a strong sense of entitlement. Are you with me or not?


Before I brought home my first Pit Bull mix, a foster dog, I cared about leash laws. Now that I have a leash-reactive power breed, I care even more. And I have a few things to say about people who willingly violate those laws.

Crystal had been seized by the county due to neglect, and she sat in the shelter for a weekend before my kids and I agreed to take her after no one else did. On our first walks together, we discovered Crystal is leash reactive when she sees other dogs. We are currently enrolled in Reactive Rover classes at the Seattle Humane Society to learn techniques for dealing with the behavior.

Walking a giant, powerful, leash-reactive Pit Bull is challenging. Not only are you encountering people who fear them, but handling them when they are in a reactive state is even more difficult.

To avoid Crystal’s primary trigger — other dogs — we take her for longer walks later at night. However, we do have to take Crystal outside to go potty multiple times during the day. If we don’t encounter another dog, it’s fine. If we do, it can range from mildly awkward to a complete battle to restrain her from charging the other dog.

Recently, Crystal and I went for what I thought would be a quick potty break in the outdoor athletic complex near my house. And it would have been quick if some fool hadn’t been letting her dog meander all over the place off-leash.

Of course, Crystal alerted when she saw the other dog. And at first, I tried to retreat and let them pass through the park. My primary method of dealing with this type of situation is to prevent or avoid it. Crystal starts barking and whining when she sees other dogs. Many people turn around or cross the street when they see us because they have common sense.

Other people, however, decide that a barking, large dog is not a deterrent, and they continue toward us. Like this woman and her fluffy white dog.

The closer they came toward us, the more Crystal began to bark. Then she stood up and lunged toward them. She shook off her Gentle Leader. The only thing keeping her close to me was her Wonder Walker, which I held with both arms around her torso as she struggled, barked, and growled.

It takes a lot of physical energy to restrain a 65-pound dog in a triggered state. I did not understand why this woman and her fluffy dog would continue to walk toward us. Finally, she did attach a leash to her dog’s collar, but I couldn’t help but wonder why she would allow her dog to wander off-leash in the first place.

After she walked away, Crystal calmed down, and I was able to walk briskly home. But the whole thing left me feeling exhausted and frustrated at other people’s ignorance.

Handling a leash-reactive power breed takes a lot of energy, focus, and patience, but it is manageable when other people obey leash laws.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why urban dwellers decide to let their dogs wander around off-leash.

The only conclusions I can draw are that they don’t think they will encounter other animals, that their dog will never run into the street, or that they will not offend anyone with their presence. Or maybe they don’t care.

All of these assumptions lead me to believe that these people don’t think much about the experience of other people around them. In other words, they are selfish, ignorant, and have a strong sense of entitlement. They believe that their dog should have freedom at the expense of other dogs. Or maybe they just don’t think that much period. The dogs and owners I have encountered violating leash laws do not demonstrate perfect recall or, in some cases, any recall skills at all.

I don’t really understand why they have no fear. Maybe they’ve never encountered reactive dogs. I mean, if I let Crystal run off-leash, she could have broken that fluffy dog’s neck. Personally, I am less trusting of the environment around me. I am pretty sure my dogs would love to race through the people parks with no leash holding them back. But I don’t assume the environment is free of hazards.

And then there is the whole matter of licensing. I try to avoid incurring the fees associated with violating the law. I know that, in Seattle, anyway, you can be fined if your dog is not wearing a tag and is off-leash. That in and of itself is motivation for me to obey the law.

What about you? What are your thoughts about leash laws in urban environments? Let’s talk!

Read more about off-leash dogs on Dogster:

About Kezia Willingham: A Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia keeps busy by working for Head Start, contributing to Catster and Dogster, and spending time with her family, which includes a pack of rescued animals. She has an essay in the forthcoming anthology Blended: Writers on the Step Family Experience, and scheduled to be published in April 2015.

12 thoughts on “I Think People Who Violate Leash Laws Are Ignorant Jerks! What Do You Think?”

  1. fine by me. I own a rescue and always walk it on leash except in a fence enclosed dog park. I see people out on the greenways in Charlotte all the time letting their dogs run WILD all over the place off leash, defecating all over approaching other dogs on leash meanwhile the owners pretend it’s not happening and conveniently ignore the piles of feces their pets leave behind that stink to the high heavens in the summer time and also pose a public health hazard. I have gotten into super heated arguments with many people that don’t obey the law and they quickly start name calling and act like they are going to throw down but don’t.

    To all the non leash abiding dog owners. Know this. If you let your dog run wild in public IT IS considered a nuance animal in most municipalities and can be shot or poisoned on sight. Just know this.

  2. concerned citizen

    wow it’s insane how selfish, entitled, ignorant, and lazy you are. in the story you tell, your dog is the issue. you didn’t have control, the other person did. you failed to train your dog, the other person did. you failed to socialize your dog, the other person did. the problem is YOU kezia. you’re an awful person for not giving your pit bull the life it deserves and you even worse for attempting to spread your ignorance.

    dogs live and thrive off leash in basically every country but the united states.

    fyi a big barking dog shouldn’t be an obvious cause for concern. dogs are friendly animals that have been bred to serve us and socialize with other dogs. by getting a strong, intelligent breed and specifically a dog that had been abused, it’s your duty to properly educate yourself on training and then actually following through EVERY DAY.

    1. Law abiding AND concerned citizen

      To Concerned Citizen –

      If you believe you should be able to walk dogs off leash in leash law areas then let me ask you this…..exactly what makes you exempt from following laws (other than the absurd amount of arrogance)? You are the one who is selfish and entitled and lazy. Some people are kind and generous enough to rescue severely damaged dogs who have every right to be out in the sun but cannot handle strange dogs coming up to them and if you are one of those people who can keep your dog from approaching other dogs then good for you but that does nothing for the poor dog owner who is stressed knowing that there is a dog owner that doesn’t follow the law. There is NO way for someone to know what kind of dog owner you are or what kind of dog you have. People have a right to go outside with their dogs without being stressed by some loser who thinks they are above the law.
      Hopefully life will someday humble you and your obscene amount of arrogance without a dog (including yours) getting hurt or re-traumatized. Be respectful, be law abiding and get yourself trained on how to think about someone else besides yourself.

    2. “dogs live and thrive off leash in basically every country but the united states” This is a straight out lie said out of ignorance. I’ve been to plenty of other countries and this is absolutely not the case.

  3. Yes! I live on. Capitol Hill in Seattle. I have a six-month-old puppy and I cross the street when there’s dogs we don’t know… especially big dogs. She’s just fixed and mid poop and I see this girl with a big German Shepherd off leash. My dog is a tiny rescue mix… And I have to pick her up mid poo because this girl isn’t putting him on leash. I say across the street “that dog should be on a leash”. She ignores me. I say it again and add “it’s against the law.” She ignores me. Do that enforce citations? It doesn’t seem like the police would be able to do anything. But the population is too dense on Capitol Hill for this arrogance and irresponsible behavior.

    1. Hi Laura,
      Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this. These articles might help provide some insight into this issue:

  4. Stumbled across this because I encountered an owner today who was just letting his dog wander off-leash (and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this guy do this). I live in a big city where there are definitely leash laws: and there are also plenty of off-leash areas. In fact, there’s one not 10 minutes away from the area in which I live.

    Thankfully this was a friendly dog, but I had no way of knowing that. His dog started following me and he didn’t even attempt to call it back.

    I usually love dogs, but have been more cautious of late because of a horrible situation with a really irresponsible dog owner. I used to live in an apartment complex where someone had a dog who would constantly go after other people, and she wouldn’t keep him on a leash.

    Apparently he had charged at and tried to attack several people, and no one bothered to report it. It took me getting attacked and bitten by this dog for her to be evicted. I had to leave for a year in constant fear of leaving my own apartment because this dog had tried to attack me previously (before the biting incident). I had complained to the landlord who “made inquiries” but did nothing until the attack.

  5. Hello, I have a cattledog breed. She is around 32lbs, so she’s a small to meduim sized dog. I got her by chance one night as I walked into a Wal-mart a few towns over from where I live. Two people were standing near the entryway of the store talking to each other and with them stood a small dog on a leash. My eyes were immediately drawn to this dog because it’s body shape and face resembled a dog I owned (was a relationship that ended. That dog went with the x girlfriend) several years ago. I greeted them and sayed, “hey that’s a really cool dog!’ And nothing more than a few short words between us, the one holding the leash outstreatched their hand with the leash and offered, “here. She’s all yours.” I was thinking they were being sarcastic but no. They explained some things but basically they couldnt take care of her and were trying to find someone who would.

    It wasn’t long before we fell in love with each other. People who wittness us together, without exception, all say “wow that dog really loves/likes you.” We live together, just the two of us (and also my boa) in an apartment. She’s house broken to the point where I feel really bad if she is forced to stay home alone too long because she will not go in the house. So I found a career specific job with a company a few miles from home. I come home for lunch every day. When I come home she hears my keys in the door and she comes running from wherever and will be behind the door every time. She greets me with kisses and actual hugs. She stands on hindlegs and litterally puts both arms around my waist/thigh are and pulls her chest to my leg. It’s her way to hug. She knows the word kiss or kisses means kiss. I can ask her “wanna give daddy kisses” and I get face slobbered. Super sweer dog and intelligent. I know everyone wanta to say their dog is smart but this is notably different. I love my dog.

    With that said, I have her trained in a very unconventional way due to her intellect. When she grew into a complete adult I began teaching her how to behave without a leash. “Get out of the street” became a command that we worked on day after day after day. We would go in a non busy street together and then i command “get out of the street!” Over and over as i would run with her to the safety of the side of the road. When she completed the task successful, i would praise her. She learned to be careful around roads this way. When we bad this worked out well, we began some short neighborhood non-leash walks (not many cars in the area). We stayed on the sidewalk and i kept a leash on me. We worked on the command “WAIT.” She learned to wait whe we were going to cross something or if we came to a junction or whenever needed. I wanted her trained to know what to do in the event of her being alone with no leash wandering, you see. We also went (and still do) go on many long walks of the entire surrounding area. This gives her a good lay of the land.

    One day we were driving in our car, headding to the store. I was involved in a rather serious car accident while traversing through an intersection. My car totalled. I was relatively ok, so was she. My instincts are always: Check own body, check passengers, get out and away from vehicle, check other car for people and injuries, help get others out of the car if needed. After all that, then call police. Well all the excitement scared my dog and she (im the excitement of it a had fled the scene. We were 5 or so miles from home. I lost her. She was gone. I looked for her, nothing. I was very worried.
    About 20 hours later, I was at home (sad and alone). I was on the phone with someone, talking about the dog, when I heard scratching it my door. When I opened, it was her! She came home! She was glad to see me and I her. I don’t know how she knew the correct direction to start walking but I do know this: her training helped her be ready for an off-leash emergency situation. That was a busy intersection. There were many busy roads on her way home. She kept herself safe.

    Say whatever you want. I know my behavior was and is the smart thing to do. Bulldogs are not of border collie intelligence….. Cattledogs are though. I guess if a person has a dog who is pretty much a ditsy idiot or violent meanie-head, it would be best to keep the leash on.

    1. hannah beresford

      Sadly, it sounds like you are one of ‘those’ dog owners that ruin it for everyone. If you take your dog to a location that has a leash law then your dog MUST be on a leash. That should be self explanatory and easy to follow. If you don’t like to keep your dog on a leash then go to a dog park or areas that you are sure have no leash laws.
      If you think the law doesn’t apply to you then I truly hope you get fined a lot and often. I feel bad for your dog.

    2. Yikes. I very much hope you recognize that you’re the exact problem the author is talking about here. You’ve made it abundantly clear that consideration for others is not a priority for you—we see you. Have several seats, and listen to others when they bring up important issues instead of defending your fragile ego. You might learn something, if not become a more empathetic person.

      For folks who are reading this: This article isn’t about reactive dogs being “ pretty much ditsy idiot[s] or violent meanie-head[s]”, as commenter Bryan alleges. This is about consideration for others and their reactive dogs (many of whom have sadly developed reactivity because of off-leash dogs running up to them and getting in their face). For anyone on the fence about whether or not their dogs should be allowed to be off-leash in leashed areas, please think about the folks around you and all the hard work and training they do with their reactive dogs. It is an incredibly stressful, taxing experience for many handler/dog teams to be set back by folks not obeying the law in areas where there is a reasonable expectation for dogs to be leashed. Please think of us—your efforts do not go unnoticed.

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