Dog drama unleashed

Dogs run freely but are closely watched by their owners at Milnerton Lagoon.

Recent dog attacks on beaches in the Blaauwberg area have raised questions about good dog-walking etiquette.

The issue of unleashed dogs is an emotional one and dog owners are divided as to whether they should leash their dogs or not.

But read any website on the golden rules when walking a dog and topping the list is leashing your dog unless it’s a big open park or beach where there are no other dogs around and you are close enough to your dog to control it. It’s uncontrolled dogs that have been responsible for nasty incidents on our beaches of late, including attacks on a seal (“Leashless dogs attack seal,” Tabletalk January 18) and a tourist (“Tourist attacked by dog,” Tabletalk, December 14 2016).

Sheila Wills, a trainer at Cape Dog Handlers Clubs, says, “ Ninety-nine percent of people do not have full control of their dogs when they are off leash, even when they think they do.

“There will always be a time, no matter how well-trained a dog is, that something will trigger its interest and that interest will be far more interesting than obeying its handler’s command to return. Then there is the other problem for people who have a reactive dog trying to retain control of their own dog when some strange dog will come running up towards it and the owner of the loose dog, far off in the distance is yelling, ‘It’s okay, my dog is friendly.’ Well, maybe so, but have you ever thought that the other dog is on a leash for a reason and the last thing that person wants is for some strange dog to come rushing up and causing their dog to react aggressively?”

She adds: “When the law states that ‘dogs should be under control’ that is exactly what it means, and very few members of the public have that control.”

Parklands resident Emilia Tagliaferri, who owns two Rottweilers that she walks daily, believes all off-lead areas should be enclosed because dogs can be unpredictable.

“My dogs are socialised, but it’s a whole different story when they are on a lead and close to me and when they are in a different, strange environment.”

Mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, says while some beaches permit dogs to run free, the animals’ owners still have a duty to control them at all times.

“If this cannot be achieved by voice commands, dogs must be on a leash and possibly muzzled if necessary, irrespective of whether it is a dog-free running zone. The City, she adds,”simply doesn’t have the resources to patrol every beach and public open space on a 24-hour basis and we rely heavily on the public to employ good sense and common courtesy”.

Anton van der Westhuizen lives in Table View and takes his two mixed-breeds for walkies on Blouberg or Big Bay beaches.

“I always allow my dogs to run free, but one has to be on guard because, as small-sized dogs, they are more vulnerable, and, as mine are rescue dogs, they have been through enough, and I’d hate anything to happen to them.”

Sandy Mahoney, of Bothasig, takes her two Labradors to Melkbosstrand or Milnerton Lagoon. “You are responsible for your dogs’ behaviour, and when I walk my dogs, I am always on the lookout, and when I see smaller dogs, I rein mine in. Dogs often have a pack mentality, and many owners of small dogs will feel uncomfortable to see large dogs running towards them. Usually, dogs just sniff each other and move along, but there are unsocialised dogs.”

The SPCA also stresses the importance of dog owners always having control of their animals, especially in public.”Negligent and careless behaviour by any animal owner are two key ingredients in a recipe for certain disaster,” says spokeswoman Tara McGovern.

Beauty without Cruelty’s chairwoman Toni Brockhoven agrees and says those not leashing in public or letting their dogs roam free without collars bearing the owners’ contact details should be fined heavily.

“That being said, there must be parks and sections of beaches where dogs can run free, and there is no reason whatsoever that an easily accessible kilometre of beach in each area cannot be fenced and gated, where dogs can play to their heart’s content,” says the Table View resident. Sadly, as always, it’s the humans involved who are irresponsible, selfish and apathetic. Companion animals, in this case dogs, come with the responsibility to train, socialise and neuter them. People who fail to do so should suffer the consequences. On a related doggie note, those people who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop should also be seriously penalised.”

Dogs can run free before 9am and after 6pm at Big Bay, Blaauwberg; Melkbosstrand; Milnerton lighthouse and Milnerton Lagoon.