Under Control

One of the most difficult concepts in Animal Control Ordinances is to get pet owners to understand what it means to have their animal under control. In many ordinances, the concept of being under voice command is the same as being under control. Anyone who trains dogs knows that once a dog is off-leash, the handler never maintains 100% control. That control jumps to 0% if a rabbit jumps up in front of the dog. In Eugene Oregon, we provided for verbal control if while in one of the city’s parks if the owner could call their dog and have the dog leashed within 20 (or so) seconds. Many dogs, distracted by ducks and geese, demonstrated that their owner had no control over them.

So, most ordinances claim that to be under control requires a leash. But a leash is not sufficient. If you have ever watched a child walking a large dog on a leash, you can clearly see that the child has no control and probably won’t for another several years. Thus, ordinances have to indicate that the person on the other side of the leash is competent to restrain the dog. I was approached by a guy walking his Saint Bernard dog the other day, and that dog decided that it needed to sniff me. I could see that the guy didn’t have the ability to stop the dog’s actions. He appeared competent, but he had little physical control of his dog.

So, in addition to being on a leash, the ordinance must indicate the person’s competence and ability to maintain physical control. When those things don’t exist, the dog has the ability to be unconstrained by his own desires. If that Saint Bernard dog had decided to bite me, I could make a case that although on a leash the dog was not under control.

Most of the problems associated with pet ownership is the inability of owners to keep their pets under control. Although a cute puppy or baby snake is fun when they are small; does the potential owner consider what the animal will be like in five or ten years. Possibly, one rule of thumb is to never purchase an animal that can one day become larger than you. Before you horse owners start to jump down my throat, keep in mind that horses only become a problem when they are not kept in agricultural areas. And don’t get me started on pigs.