Booster

Dog etiquette discussion draws few participants

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Dana Warner and his wife were riding a tandem bicycle on a path when a dog darted directly in front of their lead wheel, causing them to crash.

As the couple checked to see if they had sustained any injuries, Dana Warner recalled last week, the owner of the dog ran up and began to berate them for running into the animal.

The Clintonville resident, who works at Columbus Public Health in the area of community engagement, related that unpleasant encounter with the canine and its equally unpleasant owner last week during a discussion organized by a neighborhood group seeking to chart a course toward improved civility.

Although conflicts between people who own dogs and love them and those who don't are almost always hot-button issues in any community, only a handful of people turned out for "Dog Tales: A Public Discussion," put on by Positively Clintonville at the Whetstone Recreation Center.

Not so much an organization as a movement, Positively Clintonville came into being following a period of intense acrimony among members of the neighborhood's area commission.

"We thought it would be interesting to teach people to have civil discussions," Jane Hoffelt, one of the core group behind Positively Clintonville, said before the meeting began.

She and Dave Penniman, another supporter of the group, also thought it would be easy to draw a crowd for a lively discussion on the subject of dog etiquette, particularly in light of a 160-post thread on the Clintonville Discussion Group Facebook page in March that touched on issues of people letting their pets run loose, barking dogs and the inevitable anger over people who fail to pick up after their pooches.

"Given all the comments on it, it's very interesting that no one wants to talk about it in person," Hoffelt said when it became clear just a half-dozen people were going to attend the discussion.

"We felt people felt strongly about it on both sides," Penniman said.

Warner, a trained facilitator who is involved in the local organization Citizens for Public Discussion, agreed to be the moderator for the dog etiquette discussion. He mentioned at the outset -- "in the interests of full disclosure" -- he has two dogs but also admitted, "I'm sort of dismayed by a lot of dog owners."

Among those who did attend "Dog Tales" was Blacklick resident Bob Jervis, director of the National K-9 Learning Center's school for dog trainers and head instructor for the program at the operation, which was established in Columbus in 1975 and is now located on Morrison Road.

"I've never met a dog who was born bad," Jervis said. "If you can figure out what makes a dog tick, they can do just about everything."

In a perfect world, he added, all dog owners would be trained to keep their pets from bothering anyone. It's not a perfect world, Jervis conceded.

Columbus does not have a leash law, Warner said, but rather an ordinance requiring that dogs be under the command and control of the person with them. That means the animals should come when called and sit or stay when told to do so.

It's a "nebulous" law at best, Warner said, but added it probably won't be changed any time soon because of the reaction when any change is proposed. He said about half of those who express an opinion are strongly in favor of a stricter law and half are just as vehemently opposed.

"The sky falls any time they suggest any kind of adjustment to the rules," Warner said. "It's been so controversial on both sides."

"In any kind of dialogue, you need to come at it from the other person's point of view, always," Hoffelt said.

"The confronting issue is a key one," Penniman said. "How do you confront someone who you feel is endangering you? How do you resolve that issue?"

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