Meyers in dogged pursuit of leash law enforcement |

Meyers in dogged pursuit of leash law enforcement

Greg Risling

Judging by their wagging tails, it’s safe to say that life is good for Tahoe canines.

They are close to water, frolic through the forest and chase smaller animals.

Dogs love Lake Tahoe.

But man’s best friend needs to learn more manners.

They are sifting through garbage, digging up flower beds and howling through the night.

The freedom to run through the streets without a leash has stirred a controversy that has a universal theme. On one side are dog owners who feel that open space equals a special pet privilege. Then there are others who blame the dog owners for not living up to their responsibility of caring for an extended family member.

“We’ve had complaints of dogs running loose and damaging property,” said Sue Yang, chair of the Meyers Roundtable, which will facilitate a forum about leashless dogs on Wednesday evening at Meyers Elementary School. “If we can turn two to three irresponsible owners to use leashes, we have succeeded.”

Yang said Meyers is a haven for stray animals who either aren’t licensed or escape from back yards. There has been a noticeable increase of dogs in Meyers, according to Yang, and a common concern is the danger of hitting animals on U.S. Highway 50.

Leash laws are mandatory in South Lake Tahoe, but few dog owners pay attention. The leash is not to exceed 10 feet in length, and if the dog leaves private property, the master pays a $25 fine to retrieve the pet. Subsequent offenses raise the fine up to $100.

The consequence of the anti-leash resistance sometimes can be fatal. According to the El Dorado County Animal Control Department, 966 dogs were registered with its shelter last year. Of those, 273 were put to sleep. Ken Gentile, who is unduly recognized as the dog catcher for the department, said a license is essential in most of the cases where the dog is returned to its owner. But not everyone cares what happens to their pet, Gentile added.

“Some of them lose one dog and they go get another,” he said. “They feel it’s perfectly acceptable to let them run around without a leash and run amuck.”

Concern with overpopulation isn’t limited to the human race. Pure-bred breeding has been in great demand, and, on any given Sunday, a newspaper can include hundreds of listings for kittens and puppies. More than 800,000 cats and dogs were put up for adoption in California during 1995.

“The key to controlling the population is neutering and spaying your pets,” Gentile said.

Gwen King knows what it’s like to have a red target on her back. One of her neighbors complained about King’s rottweiler barking all the time. She has been warned 10 times by Animal Control, but she insists the dog rarely barks at night.

King said she always ties the dog to a pole or uses a leash for an early evening walk. She was mowing the lawn on Sunday when a stray Irish setter got frisky and attacked her dog.

“It looked friendly,” she said. “I always keep my dog on a leash because I don’t want to be liable for something stupid I can control.

“I don’t have to like the law either, but tough luck, I obey it.”

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