The Evolution of the “Running at Large” Ordinance

In the beginning, dogs were considered running at large if the dog was not under the “control of the owner”, while off the property of the owner.  There seemed to be a discrepancy between what the owner consider under control and what Animal Control Officers consider under control.  It became obvious that voice control proved to provide inadequate control under most (every)circumstances.

Ordinances migrated to requiring dogs to be kept under physical control.  Eventually the ordinance evolved to requiring maximum leash length and the leash had to be held by an adult with the capacity to “physically” control the dog while off the property of the owner.

Soon the laws required dogs to be physically confined to the property.  It was a time when the Invisible Fence folks tried to convince the law makers that their device should be viewed as physical confinement; we didn’t buy it.  We had enough experience to know that a headstrong dog would suffer the brief pain to breach the fence and then would be punished every time the dog tried getting back into the yard.

People too cheap to fence their yards would start chaining their pet in the yard.  After a few years we discovered the chaining caused dogs to become more aggressive and it was inhumane to chain the dogs for long periods of time.  We then began to create tethering laws; that created a whole new world of pet owners trying to interpret the law.

It wasn’t long that cats got into the act.  I think we received more complaints about cats than we did dogs.  Cat owners, like the dog owners before them could not understand how they could be breaking the law while their cat was just sitting on the porch.  Most people did not understand the concept of their pet having the potential to leave the property because the animal was not physically confined to the property.  Not a single pet owner convinced us that they had an infallible honor system with their pet that was never broken.

be We constantly were told that “My pet never leaves the yard.”  In all my years in animal control, I found only two dogs that could not be coaxed from their yard.  They were two Shelties living on a corner lot in Pullman Washington.  Those animals have passed on, so I am convinced that there are now no animals to my knowledge that will not breach the boundary of their yard.

Cats became more of an issue because cat owners exercised loose ownership of their cats.  People treated their pets as passing strays in the neighborhood.  For that reason, we then had to define the term of owner.  It seems that the more laws that we created to make people responsible pet owners and good neighbors were creating a culture of absentee pet owners.  The thinking is that if I pretend that I don’t own the animal, then maybe I can convince someone else that I really don’t own the animal.