To leash or not to leash? Keeping your dog safe when out

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Keeping your dog leashed in public isn’t just courteous to others, it’s also a matter of safety and law.

Chris Cygan, a police officer with Marquette City Police Department, says having your animal on a leash when off private property is a state ordinance.

“There are some restricted parks in Marquette that you can’t have dogs inside the park at all, like the fit strip, Presque Isle and park cemetery, you’re not allowed to have any dogs in there at all outside of a vehicle,” said Officer Cygan. “City beaches are also restricted, can’t have dogs on the beaches, the swim beaches that is, there are some that you can take your dogs but they must be on a leash if your animal is off of your private property state and city ordinance say they must be leashed at all times.”

Officer Cygan says pet owners can be fined for having their animals off-leash, but they typically try to talk to a person and educate them before issuing a civil infraction penalty. Kim Benson-Custard, owner of TacoMo Dog Training, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed. She says keeping dogs leashed around others is important for safety.

“It’s not just about the safety of other people’s dogs, sometimes it’s about the safety of your dog because if your dog is friendly and approaches another dog who is not friendly they could still get attacked and it’s not fair to anybody in that situation,” said Custard-Benson. “So it just helps to keep everybody safe to have dogs on-leash and only have them off-leash where it’s designated to do so.”

Dogs on a leash can feel threatened by off-leash dogs that approach them because they may not feel like they have a way to escape according to Benson-Custard.

“They feel like they don’t have a choice to escape so sometimes we see even friendly dogs feel reactive on a leash because an unleashed dog is bum-rushing them because they’re like ‘I have nowhere to go but you can circle around me over and over again,” said Benson-Custard. “So even if that dog is friendly it can be very intimidating for a dog that’s on leash.”

TacoMo Dog Training does group walks to give dogs the opportunity to socialize in a controlled environment.

“Many dogs don’t like the nose-to-nose encounter but like to be around other dogs in a way that they can feel safe, my dog is one of those dogs he can be around them as long as no-on is bum rushing him,” said Benson-Custard.

There are a few options for off-leash play in the Upper Peninsula. In Marquette County, UPAWS has an off-leash dog park for use with a paid permit and the City of Marquette opens Tourist Park as a seasonal off-leash park for use with a permit from November until April. The City of Escanaba maintains a free dog park near the airport and Iron Mountain has a dog park within the Iron Mountain City Park.

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