Tari Marcou frequently makes the trip from her home in Dublin to Whetstone Park with her dogs to let them romp.

It brings them joy, she said.

"My dogs are so happy if they just get out once a day off-leash to smell and sniff," Marcou said. "My dogs smile when they come here.

"I don't see dogs smile on a leash."

To leash or not to leash, that is the question. It's been a sticking point in Clintonville between those who think the pleasure their dogs get from running free outweighs any potential risk, and those for whom the risk is all too real.

Susan Dlouhy of Clintonville fell firmly into the latter category a little over three years ago following an incident at the very same park where Marcou's dogs come to smile.

Dlouhy's labradoodle, Bailey, was enjoying some off-leash time near the Whetstone Park baseball fields in March 2014 when another dog, also not on a leash, attacked Bailey, Dlouhy recalled in an April 2014 story in ThisWeek Booster.

The resulting injuries required more than a dozen stitches and cost Dlouhy more than $600 for emergency care at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.

The owners of the attacking animal simply walked away, Dlouhy said at the time.

In the wake of that incident, then-Clintonville Area Commission member Dana Bagwell launched an online signature drive aimed at urging city officials to address the issue of dogs running loose in public places.

The pertinent section of city code, which comes up for criticism occasionally, requires any dog not on its owner's property to be "securely leashed or under direct control at all times."

"Direct control," according to code, means "the animal will come, sit and stay on command from the owner."

Violators can be found guilty of a minor or third-degree misdemeanor.

If the animal causes physical harm to any person, or if the offender is or has been the owner of a dog that was declared a dangerous or vicious animal, the violation is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Bagwell's 2014 campaign failed to gain traction, even in the light of The Columbus Dispatch's late-2013 editorial denouncing "direct control" as inadequate.

"This city needs a leash law, and now," according to the editorial.

Columbus City Councilman Michael Stinziano said it's been all quiet on the leash-law front since then.

"I have not heard anything," Stinziano said.

The "pups on the patio" issue, in which Columbus Public Health officials last spring banned dog owners from having their pets with them at outdoor eating areas, has been the most pressing issue regarding dogs, he said.

"If there is a concern, we're always happy to be doing what we can, as we want to set the standard," Stinziano said.

Columbus Recreation and Parks officials have received three emails regarding unleashed dogs in the past six months, said Nancy Colvin, communications and marketing specialist with the department.

Only Michigan and Pennsylvania have statewide laws requiring dogs to be under their owners' control while in public, according to Rebecca F. Wisch of the Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center, with Michigan requiring leashes.

Ohio, according to the center's website, along with Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming, handle the issue by permitting local governments to enact laws dealing with dogs running at large.

Susan M. Smith, community relations director for the Franklin County Department of Animal Care and Control, said some cities around Columbus, notably Dublin and Upper Arlington, have more-stringent laws regarding dogs running loose.

"In general, we're supportive of anything that encourages responsible dog ownership," Smith said. "What we find is that dogs in those areas where they have additional laws or additional safety officers or a police officer dedicated to enforcing those laws, we don't tend to pick up as many dogs in those areas."

Colvin added the city maintains five parks just for dogs. They include Godown Dog Park, 6099 Godown Road, which is operated by the city of Worthington; it's open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

For her part, Dlouhy said Bailey is fully healed, in body and spirit.

Dlouhy no longer is an ardent supporter of a citywide leash law with more teeth.

"She still goes off-leash in the park," Dlouhy said of Bailey.

"That was such a scattered incident. I have never seen those people in the park again. For the most part, I would say 99 percent of the people at Whetstone who have dogs off-leash, they have them under control. Anyone who has dogs off leash knows they are going to be OK with other dogs."

"There is a subculture here of dog walkers who are extremely responsible," Clintonville resident Roger Schultz said recently as he watched his dogs interact with others at Whetstone Park. "They're actually good stewards of the park."

"I don't ever want to see a leash law here," Marcou said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1