DEAR DIDI: We have a neighbor two doors down from us that regularly, twice a day, lets their Chihuahua out in the front yard to wander and do his business. They do not stand outside with the dog nor do they leave the front door open to listen for potential issues. The dog wanders and pees on a variety of bushes and occasionally goes into the street or someone else’s yard. I have tried to shoo the dog back into its own yard and mentioned to the owners one time that I was worried about him because he wandered away. The owners responded by saying, “Oh, he won’t go anywhere!” Is this even allowed by law? -Concerned Neighbor
DEAR NEIGHBOR: I am not an Animal Control Officer so I can’t quote laws and every city may have different laws. If you have an HOA they sometimes enforce stricter regulations than the city. Driving through neighborhoods I see this all the time though and it is very perplexing. I don’t understand it at all.
In my opinion, it is completely irresponsible to allow a dog to be off leash and unsupervised in the front yard. Even if, and this is a BIG “if”, a person thinks their training is so amazing that the dog won’t step off their property and will always come when called, they cannot control the rest of the world. Let’s look at some of the things that could occur in that 15 minutes you put your dog out there alone.
A stray dog could be wandering around and decide to check out that Chihuahua. Bicyclists may whiz by on the way to school. A little dog can get in their way and cause an accident if the bicyclist has to swerve suddenly. The dog’s owner could be liable for damages. The little dog may find something enticing like a feather blowing in the wind and follow it into the street, putting him at risk of getting hit by a car. Neighborhood cats may be lurking about. Some cats will run and cause the dog to give chase, thereby, leaving his yard. Other cats will confront a small dog and possibly hurt him. Claws to delicate nose and eye tissue can be traumatic.
Loose dogs without supervision may eat things they shouldn’t when unsupervised in a front yard. Mushrooms, trash that blew in during the night, drugs that were tossed out a window while on the run, cat feces, or worse. My veterinarian described a small breed dog that was exploring unsupervised and while sniffing the corner of the house was bit by a black widow! Joggers may run by the yard and should not have to fear a dog giving chase. If the dog is adorable and friendly he is at risk for being dognapped and sold online within the hour. It is also not unheard of to have a small breed dog snatched suddenly by a bird of prey.
Dog owners that send their dogs out into front yards off leash and unsupervised truly believe the above scenarios will never happen and that, people like me, are just being dramatic. I would love to know why they do it because I can think of lots of reasons why they shouldn’t and, for the life of me, I cannot think of one good reason why it is okay. I would call Animal Control with your city and find out what the technical letter of the law is and let them know that your neighbor does this every morning at a certain time. Perhaps they can investigate and issue a warning/wake up call to the dangers. I do hope they don’t learn their lesson the hard way through the loss of their dog. The dog doesn’t deserve to have anything bad happen to him.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. To ask your dog behavior question, email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Didi’s Facebook page: California Canine.