Dogs may also cause property damage or bodily injury, for which owners are of course liable. Aggressive dogs are a clear danger, but even a friendly but exuberant dog can injure another person by jumping up onto or running into people. Children are especially vulnerable to being knocked down by an excited dog.
One of the most common and most frustrating issues of responsibility involves picking up after our dogs. There are no two ways about this; those who won’t pick up after their dogs should not own dogs. They make us all look bad. If allowing a dog off the leash will prevent its owner from noticing when they need to clean up after a dog, then it should not be done. The edges of many paths and trails, not to mention grassy areas, are littered with dog feces. This is simply disgusting, and spreads germs. Because of the sheer population numbers of dogs, and the refined diet that we feed them, leaving dog feces on the ground is not comparable to the feces of wild animals. We need to clean up after them.
There are some arguments against the necessity of leash laws. Not everyone thinks that leash laws are necessarily the answer to the problems of dogs in public. Denver Off Leash Advocates, for example, is an organization that claims that leash laws generate revenue in tickets and fines, but otherwise do little real good, and the organization is in favor of repealing leash laws in city parks. They point out that even large and densely populated New York City functions very smoothly without leash laws in its parks.
Whether the leash, specifically, is a vital detail or not, the issue really boils down to responsibility and consideration. Ultimately, we need to keep our dogs fully in control. As hard as it is for many of us doggy types to remember, not everyone likes dogs, and many people certainly don’t appreciate being approached by a strange dog.
Most of us enjoy off-leash dog parks and other open spaces where we live. But no matter what the exact situation is in your area, remember that we choose to live shoulder-to-shoulder with many neighbors, and we should be very cognizant of our responsibility and our consideration for everyone when it comes to our shared spaces.