Police and animal control officers did not have to look too far to find loose or unregistered dogs as they patrolled the Rock Hole area Wednesday.
Amid a rise in “ferocious dog” attacks, both on humans and other pets, police have partnered with the Department of Agriculture to go into impacted neighborhoods to preach a message about responsible dog ownership.
Some of the animals they encountered did not appear too ferocious. One puppy wandered out of its driveway to greet the officers. In other homes, muscular dogs strained against leashes or sheltered in kennels, unconcerned by the officers’ presence.
Despite the relative calm, many of the dogs were unregistered and several of them were unleashed.
Even the most passive dog can be a problem in the wrong situation, according to Acting Sergeant Jonathan Kern, who is leading the joint operation along with the DOA’s Animal Control Officer Erik Bodden.
The two men, accompanied by staff from the DOA, handed out pamphlets to owners in the neighborhood, registered dogs on the spot and gave advice to pet owners.
Sergeant Kern said there had been a significant rise in incidents involving stray or loose dogs over the past few months. He said it was important that pet owners kept their dogs under control and under their care, rather than letting them roam.
“We are starting off with an education campaign on responsible dog ownership because we have had a worrying increase in the number of dog bites from stray and loose dogs, especially in the past week,” he said. “We want people to make sure they are taking care of their dogs properly.
“The biggest way to fix this problem is for every dog owner to take responsibility for their own dog. Then the problem goes away.
“It is not the dog’s responsibility to look after itself, but unfortunately it is the dog that will take the blame and face the consequences if there is an incident.”
He said it was mandatory for owners to register their dogs. That enables the DOA to trace stray dogs to an owner and also holds the owner legally accountable for their dogs.
“I think it is important that people realize we are here to educate and to give them a free opportunity to register their dogs,” Sergeant Kern added.
Mr. Bodden said the owners in Rock Hole had been receptive to the message, with several dogs registered on Wednesday morning. He said there would be an ongoing campaign to encourage people to take better care of and have more control over their animals.
“It is a partnership with the police,” he said. “We work closely with the community officers and where there is a problem we go into that neighborhood and see what we can do to educate and deal with these matters.”
Police and DOA were also handing out leaflets highlighting the legal responsibilities of dog owners to keep their animals leashed in public and otherwise confined within the owner’s property.
The leaflet also includes guidance for owners on their responsibilities to feed, provide shelter and protection for their animals and to avoid nuisance behavior, as well as what to do and who to call in case of a dog bite or other incident.