Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

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July 3, 2012
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Common courtesy goes a long way in keeping Tahoe dog-friendly

Is Tahoe dog-friendly? Many will say "no." Others says "yes" with a big blind spot. A community becomes dog-friendly and stays dog friendly with common courtesy as well as common-sense rules. Carmel, Calif., was one of the first West Coast towns to earn the title "dog friendly." Lodging, street cafes, shops and galleries welcome dogs and their humans. However, web blog rumor has it that pristine Carmel Beach has become so polluted with dog waste that even dog-loving tourists are saying they will never go back. Tahoe is at a crossroads. The main attraction, the lake, allows limited access for dogs. That access is continually put at risk due to loose dogs allowed to run over sun bathers and worse. On trails and in neighborhoods, leash laws are routinely ignored. Tahoe dogs, residents, and visitors deserve better.

Here are some common excuses:

'He's friendly!'

Maybe. But I don't want muddy paws or slobber on my clothes. My horse, child, partner or me is terrified of dogs. I crashed trying to avoid hitting your dog with my trail bike.

The Tahoe woods are one big dog park

Tahoe is a rural community in a wildlife filled setting. Dogs are both predator and prey. As man made domestic creatures, they are hundreds of thousands of years away from their wild beginnings. Off leash dogs are lost on the way to Mount Tallac or go over Eagle Falls each season. Those who don't die are crippled for life.

'Yes, officer, I do have a leash.'

It's at home, in the car, my hiking buddy has it? Off-leash citations require personal time for a court appearance, a hefty fine, and often court-ordered restrictions on a dog's future public presence.

'What dog pile?'

Any kid will joyfully tell you that what goes in the front comes out the back. And, yes, your dog's poop does smell as well as pollute rivers, lakes, ground water, shared trails and the neighbors' yards. Off leash, it's easy to feign ignorance of this natural fact.

'He's never bitten before!'

The majority of dog bites are caused by off-leash pets. Children especially are at risk. Injuries are to the face. If viable, plastic surgery is expensive. Lifelong trauma is likely. Every breed bites for a variety of reasons, often caused by the victim. The dog owner is always liable. The dog pays the ultimate price.

'I love my dog!'

Used correctly with positive reinforcement, the leash is an extension of the human-animal bond, a symbol of trust and mutual protection. It is a safety line and umbilical cord. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to train a bona fide service dog and his or her handler. They are always connected together with a leash.

My dog looks cool without a collar.

Current dog fashion includes a variety of harnesses, leash incorporated collars, standard collars in leather, climbing rope, hemp, cotton, nylon, and more fabrications. Every harness or collar includes a "D" ring for leash attachment.

Is there a time and a place for off leash dogs?

Yes. Dog parks have evolved into ever more comprehensive canine theme park experiences, including livestock for herding, dock diving and more. Facilities such as Carson Canine Adventures offer sports as well as socials for off-leash dogs. Some of us might have a secret spot where no one else comes around - no people, no dogs, no wild animals. It's just me and my dog and the water and the solitude and a good fetching stick. Even there, we bring our poop bag and our leash, and keep a kind eye out, just in case we need to share.

- Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help "Keep Tahoe Kind." Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 3, 2012 05:56PM Published Jul 3, 2012 05:53PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.