If there’s one thing to get the local community Facebook forum worked up, it’s a discussion about dogs. Dogs off-lead, dogs on beaches, dogs at parks, dogs on-lead, dog poo, dogs on sports grounds, dog owners, dogs barking. In fact, one of the reasons I left the local Facebook page was the passion, and indeed, the nastiness that spewed from people once the topic of our four-legged friends came up. Talk about unleashing the hounds!
Poo on the pavement? Poo on footy fields? Irresponsible owners? Lack of beaches for dogs? Lack of off-lead parks for dogs? Dogs running through playgrounds or sports grounds when they are supposed to be on-lead? Dogs in the wildlife reserve, rushing birdlife? By-laws officers enforcing fines? Dead birds, yapping puppies and dog attacks all had a run. All these topics often drew the most virulent of responses, in some cases leading to insults about people’s children and campaigns akin to bullying.
Lucy Battersby’s recent piece suggests that when people visit an on-lead park, it would be reasonable to expect they’d be able to enjoy that space with dogs on-lead. Not so, in her experience.
Disdain and abuse are often served up to those who suggest a dog should be on-lead. My daughter’s own experiences at on-lead parks when she was three led to her developing a fear of dogs after dogs often ran up to us, off-lead. In her face, lunging at her food, rushing in groups. We chose on-lead parks specifically to avoid such interactions, as I was not well-equipped to manage them, yet they continued at all parks we visited. Speaking up to dog owners was always fraught.