Dog groups stress importance of leash laws following dog attack

Leaders at Woofers on the Run and Bowsers by the Bay, two groups who specialize in dog care, feel it could have been avoided if Otto, the puppy involved, had been wearing a leash.

On Sunday morning an unleashed puppy in Traverse City was hurt after it ran up to two larger dogs that were walking by. Those dogs had leashes on but the puppy was still attacked.

Some people, along with several dog advocacy groups have mixed feelings about who was to blame in the situation.

Ottoâ??s owner, Ivor Christiansen, says he was letting his dog outside to go to the bathroom outside of their Bay Hill apartment complex on Sunday morning. Christiansen was standing in the doorway watching Otto just several feet away.

Otto noticed two larger dogs walking by, and ran to go see them, with Christiansen running after him. Thatâ??s when the other dogs, a boxer-mix named Rex and another mixed dog, Violet, came after Otto.

Rex got ahold of Ottoâ??s neck and there was a struggle to separate the two dogs that Christiansen says lasted around seven minutes. Christiansen says he began punching the dog, trying to do what he could to separate the two.

Otto suffered a severe cut to the neck along with several other bite marks and the boxer-mix, was also injured on his eye and neck.

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Leaders at Woofers on the Run and Bowsers by the Bay, are two groups who specialize in dog care. They feel it could have been avoided if Otto, the puppy involved, had been wearing a leash.

Michigan does have a leash law, but cities are able to make their own ordinances. In Traverse City, dogs must be on a leash eight feet in length or less in public areas like sidewalks or on someone elseâ??s private property. For more information on the ordinance click here.

"Everyone has the right to take their dog out in public and walk free of concern, free of fear of what might come along and happen to their dog, and that's why there's a leash law,â?? said Valeri Dietz the owner of Woofers on the Run.

Woofers on the Run is a dog running, walking, and pet sitting service in Traverse City.

Dietz says she takes dogs on walks in many different parks and on trails and says that she sees people walking their dogs without leashes almost every day.

â??A lot of people just think, that's okay they're just friendly, but what they don't think about is the other dog in the equation,â?? said Dietz. â??The other dog that might come along and even if it is on a leash you don't know how that dog is ever going to react when they are charged at by a dog that's off leash.â??

And if she sees a dog without a leash, she says sheâ??s prepared for how to respond.

â??I always pull a dog in close to me on their leash,â?? said Dietz. â??I donâ??t have a lot of give or link so that the dog isnâ??t too far from me. I am very watchful of whoâ??s approaching. I always try to give other dogs space, if that means crossing to the other side, waiting and letting other dogs pass, but the key is just knowing your dog.â??

But sometimes dog fights can still happen.

Kim Nelson is the owner of Bowsers by the Bay in Elk Rapids, a cage-free social rehab facility that provides day camp, boarding, training and grooming for dogs.

Nelson says fighting is how dogs resolve their differences, and that many factors can go into dogs being aggressive. She adds that one act of aggression, does not determine a dogs behavior overall, and that breed is irrelevant.

â??Handling a dog fight, all parties involved need to remain calm, otherwise the dogs are going to feed off of that energy that is out there,â?? said Nelson. â??And itâ??s very difficult to do. A dog fight is a scary thing regardless of your level of experience handling dogs.

Nelson says that panicking and hitting the dogs can make things worse.

She says Rex, the boxer-mix is part of the bully-breed family of dogs. Bully breeds are a breed of dog that come from the bulldog family.

Nelson says the bite of a dog like Rex is not any more powerful than another dogâ??s bite, and that the extent of their damage comes from them hanging on when they bite.

â??In this case the worst thing you can do is try to separate them you really need to keep them together and wait for the dog to release,â?? said Nelson. â??If thereâ??s a way to get the dog to release, whether itâ??s waterâ?¦believe it or not the other method is to insert your finger into their butt.â??

But Nelson says the last alternative can sometimes be a little difficult to achieve.

She suggests keeping control of the dogs and waiting for the biting dog to release.

According to Traverse City Police, Christiansen was not in violation of the leash law until Otto ran to the sidewalk and parking lot, because the grass area is part of Christiansenâ??s property at the apartment building. They say the sidewalk and parking lot areas are part of the public property shared by the Bay Hill apartment complex community and that dogs need to be on leashes while they are in those areas.

Investigators went to the home where the other dogs live and say that they did not show any aggressive tendencies during their contact with them.

Investigators have sent their report about the incident to Animal Control. They do not expect that there will be any citations issued, and there will not be any criminal charges filed for either dog owners.