The other day we were walking our three dogs and pushing our 5-month-old in a stroller around our neighborhood when a jogger stopped us.
“Have I talked to you before?” she asked.
“No,” I said. She looked upset — and not from the run.
She stopped, caught her breath, and told me something that’s kept me up at night ever since.
She was walking her Italian greyhound on a leash in an adjacent neighborhood when a Rhodesian ridgeback approached her — unleashed, unsupervised — and literally tore her dog in half. The dog was violently killed right in front of her.
I don’t know the rest of the story except that yes, the Hawaiian Humane Society was called, and yes, she filed a police report. But the other questions — Was the owner there? What did they do? Is she going to press charges? — I don’t know. All of my journalistic training disappeared as I imagined what this poor woman had to endure.
As you know, one of my greatest fears is losing my dogs. So watching them die like that would undoubtedly top my list of things I never, ever, ever want to witness.
Here’s the thing: It could have been prevented.
This wasn’t the first time this ridgeback was wandering the neighborhood. Allegedly, he’s attacked two dogs prior to killing the greyhound.
I know sometimes dogs get loose, escape from yards, jump fences. I get that. But all too often I’ve seen owners let their dogs walk, run and play without leashes, and it has to stop.
Just about everyone I encounter with an unleashed dog walking a neighborhood or hiking on trails say the same things: My dog is great off-leash. She never attacks. He’s so sweet. She’s a scaredy dog. She would never hurt anything. Oh, I’ve heard it all. And honestly, I don’t care. Leashing your dog is the law (except at off-leash parks). (Read about it here.) And it’s a law for a reason.
I, too, used to let my dogs roam Mariner’s Ridge without leashes. (My dogs are also small and, if one of them decided to bite your ankle, they wouldn’t do much damage.) But after my dogs had been attacked — and me, too — I decided I needed to lead by example. My dogs are on leashes; so should yours.
I really don’t understand why people don’t leash their dogs while walking in public areas, like in parks or along sidewalks. There are cars, cats, other dogs, mongooses — lots of distractions and reasons to send any dog, even the best behaved ones, running. I’ve seen too many times dogs that “would never attack” do just that.
A friend of mine brought his 19-month-old daughter to Kailua Beach and she was bitten by an unleashed Labrador Retriever — not known to attack like that — sending her to the hospital for a week.
And even your own dog can attack. This week a family dog — pit bull-terrier mix — in Las Vegas suddenly began biting a 6-month-old baby, killing the child.
This is no joke.
I’ve always been nervous about a dog attack, especially when I’m hiking on trails where hunting dogs roam. I think about what I’m going to do in that situation, I carry pepper spray and sometimes a stick, I always keep my phone close. But now, I have a baby, too. My fear suddenly multiplied exponentially.
So please, if you own a dog and you’re walking around your neighborhood or hiking a public trail, leash her. You’re keeping our dogs — and my baby — safe.
If you want to read about more city, state and federal laws related to dogs, check out this resource compiled by the Hawaiian Humane Society.