I go hiking at state parks prepared for the possibility of getting charged by a moose. I’m OK with that.
But I have a right to be safe from a confrontation with somebody’s dog.
Last Sunday, I was on a Mount Spokane trail when I saw three young men 25 yards ahead sitting down with three large, loose dogs.
As the dogs bristled and barked deep defensive warnings, the men grabbed them. I was relieved. My dog, Scout, was by my side on leash, as park rules require.
I waved and said I’d turn around and head back rather than parade my dog past them.
I’d gone 50 yards back down and out of sight when I heard the men yelling at their dogs. I realized what had happened and braced for the confrontation.
Instead of putting them on leash, they let them go, and the dogs bolted.
Two dogs came over the rise full speed and zeroed in on my English setter, 38 pounds. I’ve let Scout loose in similar situations to neutralize the charge, but not in this case with two dogs twice his size coming so fast.
As they sprinted in, I yelled “No!” and smacked the lead dog hard with my hiking pole on the side of its face. Reeling to the right, it cross-body blocked the second dog, which was still coming full-blast.
I was still whacking at them when their owners caught up, grabbed the two dogs and walked away without so much as an “I’m sorry.”
Minutes later, I met another hiker who’d just had an uncomfortable encounter with four loose dogs on Mount Kit Carson. “I came close to using my bear spray,” he said.
“People get up here to this open space and think they can turn their dogs loose,” said Steve Christensen, park manager. “I’d say about 50 percent of the people we encounter with dogs have them off leash.
“We have a leash law because we don’t want dogs bothering people or chasing wildlife, and we don’t want wildlife chasing dogs. The hard part is catching the worst violators.”
Washington State Parks officials recently advised park staff to write more tickets for leash law violations after a ranger at Steamboat Rock had to use his Taser on a dog that attacked him, Christensen said.
“We’ve given a lot of warnings to people, but we’re going to have to start writing more tickets,” he said. “It’s an increasing problem throughout the state.”
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