Letters to the Editor

Perhaps it's time to say 'bad owner' instead of 'bad dog'

The San Juan Islands are home to many different kinds of folks with all types of backgrounds. However, I think that it's safe to say that most of us are from the middle to upper classes with professional backgrounds; perhaps even more educated than the majority of other counties in the state.

So why is it so hard for us to keep our dogs under control?

When I first moved to the islands, I was told there were no ferocious animals living here, like bears or wolves. My new friends told me the worst thing I'd ever encounter would be a fox or an angry raccoon. Well, they were wrong. There is a monster in our midst and it hides in the back seat of cars and runs loose in our streets and fields.

It's the domestic dog.

I like dogs, but my living conditions require that the only pet I get to keep is one cat. I have a cat and she's wonderful. If I'm lucky I get to share my friend's dogs. Many times during off-weather days, I'll notice that dog owners will put little sweaters on their dogs; a sign of true love and attention to their pets needs. Although I haven't taken a poll, I'd have to say there are many more dogs on our islands than cats. Thus many more dog lovers.

While walking through the ferry line, or a tight squeeze through some cars downtown, twice a domesticated San Juan dog (or dragon, depending on if you are the owner or not) has thrown its head out the cracked window of a car barking hysterically only inches from my face, scaring the living day lights out of me! Just the other day while walking down Spring Street, I counted seven cars with one to three dogs in them barking wildly at pedestrians walking by on the sidewalk. No one was taunting these dogs; the dogs were just THAT aggressive! Ticking time bombs, I think!

I have read many disturbing cases in the papers in the last year: Dogs leaping out of their backseat windows to attack a woman on the sidewalk and her dogs; a girl walking through her neighborhood attacked by a roaming Rottweiler; unleashed dogs attacking and killing a farmer's alpaca.

When will we acknowledge than there is a serious dog problem in our county? How many more people need to be attacked, or dogs and farm animals need to die, before a serious effort is made to control this issue?

Increasing fines doesn't seem to help, and no one WANTS to put a dog down. Even after a dog attack, the owners all said, "My dog is the best dog and would never hurt anyone." Well, that's hog wash! Perhaps it's time to say "bad owner" instead of "bad dog" and separate the two for good.

Living on islands, we have the unique opportunity to control what comes on or off our islands, if we really wanted to. Is it time to outlaw "bully breed" dogs from the San Juans? I would vote for it.

All I want to do is be able to walk amongst my neighborhood, and all around the islands that I love, without fear of encountering a "San Juan Island dragon" — and I'm not talking about the lacrosse team!

Shannon Laws
Friday Harbor

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