Rocky Fork Enterprise

Guest column

We dog owners must be responsible

Gahanna is one of the most dog-friendly places you will ever visit. From the wonderful Paws on the Plaza event to Pizzurro Park to the liberal open-deck policies of several of our favorite watering holes, we have a lot of freedom with our four-legged friends here.

Therein lies the problem. We, the dog owners, have to start being more aware of how much we have to lose. The local police reports include a large number of incidents involving dogs on the loose, dogs in closed-up automobiles and those owners who refuse to clean up after their dogs. We are gambling with the patience of the public, and when we lose the privilege of walking our dogs down a public street, we will have only ourselves to blame.

First, and perhaps most unpleasant, please clean up after your dog. I know this can be unpleasant as a task, but consider the benefits. Other dogs will have an attraction to the feces left behind. This is a very common way to spread diseases that will not only harm your dog but also could cost you a small fortune in veterinary bills.

Ever stepped in a pile of that stuff? It's bad enough to turn your non-dog-loving neighbor into a militant, anti-dog commando. A few loud voices could turn our dog-friendly town into a "Keep your dog in your yard" compound very quickly.

I'm not even going to go into the human health aspects of this because they are so unpleasant that I doubt the Rocky Fork Enterprise would print them. Simply put, dog-owners of Gahanna, keep plastic bags at hand when walking. Use them. Then throw them away in proper trash receptacles, not your neighbor's yard-waste bags. Do it for the rest of us. Do it for the dogs. There are places where unhappy neighbors are already using DNA kits to trace which waste is whose, and they are prosecuting. Just clean it up.

My next plea is regarding closing your dog in an automobile on any day above 50 degrees. Even with the windows down, it becomes an oven in as little as 10 minutes. Don't imagine that you could run in and out of Kroger for something in a hurry. It's not OK. If you must be so selfish, think of this from the aspect of what other people might do when they see this occur. On Facebook, there are groups wholly dedicated to smashing car windows so that the dogs won't suffer this tragedy. They will act, and they won't wait for you to say, "I just went after a gallon of milk." Although I don't condone this action, I would call law enforcement. But these groups are active in our area, and you will pay the price for your convenience.

Lastly, I would like to address the matter of dogs running loose through neighborhoods. Often, they seem to frighten people. There are leash laws on the books already. They are prosecutable. You and you alone are responsible for keeping your dog under control -- in the yard or on a leash. Wherever you might choose to go with man's best friend, you are wholly responsible.

Occasionally, a dog might slip his bonds. He might jump a fence. That's where training comes in. Be a responsible dog owner and take at least some basic obedience training. It might save your dog's life.

The Gahanna area has some wonderful trainers doing business locally, and it's worth the money and time if you are a responsible dog owner. If you are not willing to follow a few basic laws, please go get a Chia pet. The rest of us stand to lose something we treasure with our dogs.

Robert Vaughan is a Gahanna-based search-and-rescue canine trainer and handler.