Recently Susanne Craig, a reporter with the New York Times, shared a story describing what happened when her dog was viciously attacked by an unleashed dog. While out walking her beloved Chloe, who she rescued from a shelter in New Jersey over a decade ago, another dog could be heard barking frantically. The reporter and Chloe were accompanied by a friend and her dog, Scout. Both Chloe and Scout were safely leashed. Unfortunately the other dog named Jasper was not. As the group approached the house where Jasper was wildly barking from the porch, they knew they would need to pass as quickly possible. But Jasper shot off the porch and raced towards them. Though a woman emerged from the home shouting at Jasper to stop, he had other ideas.

Chloe, a 60 pound Labrador-basset hound mix who is 12 years old sustained deep puncture wounds to her neck and abdomen. One person was also injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. Though Chloe’s injuries were significant, her veterinarian was able to treat her wounds and give her a rabies booster and antibiotics. The veterinarian said Chloe was lucky as her thick neck rolls and collar absorbed some of the attack and probably saved her life. Jasper was not so lucky. His owners were forced to surrender him to animal control as his rabies shots were out of date. Ultimately Jasper was put down.

It is not uncommon to see unleashed dogs walking through neighborhoods or in the local parks. Their owners seemingly oblivious to signs reading, “Dogs must be leashed at all times.” Responsible dog owners keep their dogs leashed when out in public. They understand doing so is not only important for their pet’s safety, it keeps everyone else safe as well. While your pet may be good with other dogs, what if another dog they meet is not? There is the possibility of encountering another dog who gets too close and snarls or worse. No one can predict what even the best-behaved dogs will do if they feel threatened.

Always choose to leash your dog when out in public. This will keep everyone safe. Not doing so could endanger your dog if a tragedy ensued. You may believe you know what to expect in terms of behavior with your own dog. However, you cannot possibly predict how another dog will behave should they come in contact with yours.

This is not only a safety issue. It is good neighbor policy. Leashing your dog prevents him from trespassing on a neighbor’s property. It also prevents your dog from jumping on people. Not all people are dog lovers. Some are actually quite fearful of dogs. You may feel confident you know your dog and can predict with accuracy how she will behave at all times. Is having your dog off leash in a public space worth the risk of injury to her or others? An important point here is there is no good way to break up a fight between dogs. Injury to yourself, your dog or others or worse is certainly possible.

According to the leash law of Tennessee, a dog must be under control of their owner at all times and cannot run at large outside of the owner’s property. If animal control is contacted, your dog can be impounded and placed in a shelter for at least five days. This would place your dog in a scary situation which is completely avoidable. Always be a responsible pet owner who not only loves your dog but respects your neighbors and their beloved pets too. When taking your dog out for a walk in your neighborhood or to the local park, always make sure she is safely on a leash.