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Posted on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Those who don't follow leash laws can cause problems for law-abiding dog owners

By Julia Levitt


Photo by Flickr user MMcCart

Many years ago — long before I was a dog trainer — I used to be quite casual about navigating one of my favorite walks. It had one big hazard, but I believed that I could manage it.

In order to get from point A to point B, I passed a house where the dog always lay on the front lawn. It started like so many things — innocently enough, or so I believed. When I would walk by the dog, on the sidewalk with my two dogs, the dog lying on its property would growl very softly. Eventually I began to walk in the street as I approached the protective dog on its lawn.

On one unfortunate day, the walk began like any other. As I approached the house, I started to walk my dogs into the street in my usual manner to avoid the growling dog. What made this walk different was that I heard the dog growling much more loudly. Too late! I quickly maneuvered my dogs into the middle of the street as the black dog came after us. Yikes! The sleeping volcano had erupted!

The dog ran after us, but soon he turned around and ran back to his owner. He came close to one of my dogs but did not bite her. When I finally looked up, one of the owners of the dog was bending over her dog and petting it. I called out that she owed me an apology. This did not occur.

Later that morning I contacted the Dog Warden of Ann Arbor and told her that a dog that was not on a leash attacked me and my dogs. I contacted the Dog Warden because it is illegal for a dog to not be on a leash and because I did not want the dog to ultimately hurt someone else.

The first step for the Dog Warden was to notify the people responsible for the dog. They denied the event took place. I chose not to ignore the problem. The Dog Warden indicated that the next step was to bring the matter to small claims court, where issues like this are heard.

The only comment the owner made in court was that she was wearing earphones and could not see what happened! The judge ruled that the owner was responsible and a fine of $50 was issued. After I left the courtroom, I saw the man who also owned the dog arguing loudly with the city attorney that this event never happened. Of course he was not present when this event occurred.

Who was at fault? You decide.

Here are the facts:

I was walking my dogs on a public sidewalk.

I consistently passed a house where the dog was growling.

The dog was not on a leash.

The “leash law” in Ann Arbor defines the circumstances for which a dog is considered under “reasonable control”: “(The dog) must be secured by a leash held by the owner or the owner’s agent. (The dog) must be secured by a leash which is attached to a stationary object and attended by the owner or the owner’s agent. (The dog is) on the premises of the owner or confined in a vehicle. Note: Sidewalks and lawn extensions are public. Dogs should not be left outside stores and restaurants while owners are inside. All animal control regulations apply to parks.”

Questions you are probably asking yourself:

Why didn’t I change my walking routine?

Knowing the pattern of the sleeping volcano, why didn’t I just walk on the other side of the street?

Here are some questions I will ask of you; when you walk your dog:

Do you often pass by another dog in your neighborhood that is not confined by a fence or leash?

Do you walk your dog past another dog even if that dog lunges at your dog?

Can you control your dog when it is walking by a dog rushing to its fenced yard barking at you?

What happens when a loose dog attempts to run at your leashed dog?

These situations happen all the time.

What happened to me after my court date with the loose black dog? Happy ending — the owners acknowledged that their dog had acted inappropriately and paid the fine. In the end I was lucky. My dogs and I were not hurt. I learned some valuable lessons, like being more proactive when facing potentially volatile situations.

Whenever I am unsure of any dog on or off a leash, I cross the street.

If I encounter a situation where I see the dog loose more than once, I change my route.

If a loose dog is charging after my dogs, I react calmly. I make sure the other dog does not follow us, and I am on my way.

What if a dog is loose and sees us but does not approach us? I look for a few seconds to see if the owner is in sight. If not, I keep walking.

Be safe and enjoy your walks with your best friend.

Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training ( in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at or at 734-645-4707. Julia provides individual training for dogs and their owners, and also conducts dog training classes at Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.



Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:28 a.m.

I frequent Hunt Park almost daily, and I rarely see a dog on leash or under the control of it's owner. Many people walk their dogs on leash to the park, but when they arrive at the park, they immediately release their dogs to run all over the park. The rare times I ask owners to please keep their dog on leash, they look at me like I have two heads and do not do anything about the situation. Julia, over 95% of dog owners who visit Hunt Park break the law, and ignore the laws of consideration to others. I am dumbfounded by their possibly dangerous behavior. When my son was younger, one of his friends was jumped on by a dog at the park who was just "playing", but scared the 8 year old so badly that he wouldn't go back to the park for over a year. The dog owner felt it wasn't a big deal because his dog was "just being friendly". Calling the police in Ann Arbor about loose dogs at Hunt Park gets a reaction of we don't have anyone available to check it out at this time. I have never seen a citation issued at the park for a loose dog, yet it is almost constant that there is a loose dog running around. Thanks for the opportunity to vent .

Julia Levitt

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

Bobby John - How right you are -excellent points. I am so sorry about your son's bad experince . Unfortunatley this is acommon occurance for children and adults. Thank you for your comments-Julia


Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Having an issue with terminology here. You were not "attacked" by an off-leash dog. You were chased by an off-leash dog who responded to its' owner and returned to them when called. That does not make it acceptable in any way, but there is a HUGE difference between the two. The best plan in a case like this is to stop, turn around, and stand your ground because if that dog had actually been attacking, there is no way you would have outrun it. Holding your hand up, using, as another trainer put it, "The Voice of God", and a general attitude of being in control is frequently enough to stop this type of dog. If they're not going to stop, running puts you in a position to be taken down. Your dogs would be loose, your only option would be to assume the fetal position. That being said, off-leash dogs are a huge issue in Ann Arbor. jackson west's tongue-in-cheek comment aside, you should NEVER have to alter the route of your walk to avoid an off-leash dog. There are parks (Argo and Wurster being prime examples) where I cannot walk my well-behaved on-leash dogs because of the out of control off-leash dogs. I've decided to start reporting these dogs because I should not have to avoid certain areas due to dog owners who illegally let their dogs off-leash. These are also, in general, the type of owners who don't clean up after their dogs and give the rest of us a bad name. It's too bad that there isn't an evaluation system in place, because there are some loose dogs who are well trained and responsive, but sadly, there isn't. There is nothing most dogs who are on-lead hate more than being approached by a loose dog. It's a quick route to a fight. I actually love walking past yards with dogs who are going crazy behind their fence. It's a prefect training situation to teach my dogs to be non-reactive and to pay attention in distracting circumstances. I'm sorry you went through such a scary experience. Thank goodness no one was hurt.

Julia Levitt

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

Hi one more minute- I am sorry that I was not clear about the outcome when the loose dog came after my dogs. The owner did NOT call her dog . The dog turned and went tback to her. I also mentioned in the blog I moved quickly into the street. I did not run from the dog. As you know any quick movement and a dog will follow the movement. I am glad you found a method that works for you when you see a loose dog. My first sentance when I begin the blog says-many years ago before I become a dog trainer. I have learned alot over the years. Thank you for taking the time to comment.Julia


Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

This is such an incendiary article that I'm not sure where to begin a rebuttal. But I'll start with the photograph. Does a discussion on leash laws require a photo of snarling dog? Why not a photo of leashes??? An unleashed dog does not a monster make. The leash law does not apply in your story. The municipal code states that if a dog is on the owner's property then it must be under reasonable control - fencing, invisible fencing, tied up,on a leash etc. The 1% of dog owners who disregard leash laws does not represent all dog owners. Surely you must know that. A vast majority of dogs & dog owners are behaving so well that you don't even notice them. They're behaving as expected and therefore don't appear on your "reasons to get upset" radar. Then the occasional rogue dog & owner show up and suddenly their behavior is extrapolated to nearly all dogs & dog owners. This is the same kind of thinking that ignites arguments between cyclists & motorists. I am sorry that you & your dogs were threatened by the neighbor's dog. It shouldn't have to be that way. But rather than tip-toeing around or taking legal actions after the fact why couldn't you have talked to the dog's owners once you had noticed this inappropriate behavior? It's not a guarantee that things will change but it's worth the effort. That you went into attack mode shortly after being attacked (legal action, posting your article) indicates that you're rather aggressive yourself. Any dog behaviorist would tell you that dogs themselves will attempt to negotiate rather than confront. You could have attempted to negotiate with the dog's owners before things got out of hand. What could have been a "teachable moment" article simply sounds sad and vindictive. You continued to walk past the dog knowing there was a threat. You only changed your behavior well after the fact. You were in the right but that's cold comfort when you think about what could have happen

jackson west

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

There are a lot of attractive, wild dogs in Ann Arbor and they have formed gangs. These packs of beautiful creatures are terrifying. I was chased for two blocks after buying an ice cream cone at 31 flavors. This is getting ridiculous and I can not control my compulsions much longer.

Julia Levitt

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

Hi Jackson- Please please call the police when you see loose dogs! Your safety is of the most importance! Thank you for informing readers of this problem-Julia

Julia Levitt

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Hi Billy- Thank you for taking the time to write such an insightful comment. I appreciate you taking the time to reply to the post-Julia


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

Dogs should not be loose in unfenced yards . Period. Often the owners think it is o.k. for their dog to be loose in their unfenced yards because their dog is friendly. Your dog may be friendly, but it can seem very intimidating to someone who is just trying to walk down the street, possibly with another dog on a leash. Your loose dog can seem very intimidating to the leashed dog who is trying to walk past your house, too, and the passing dog may think it needs to defend itself.

Julia Levitt

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

Thank you Heather- Very smart reply and very thoughtful. Thank you for your comments-Julia


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

lol this is beyond clear cut. If the dog LEFT IT'S PROPERTY TO ATTACK YOU the case is more discussion. The owner of a dog will forever be 100% legally responsible for EVERYTHING that dog does for as long as they own and control exceptions. If you have control of it....everything it does is on YOU. This has nothing to do with the leash has EVERYTHING to do with the owner not having control of their animal. I've known several people over the years who have yards without fences and dogs that go out in them without a leash AND STAY IN THE YARD NO MATTER WHAT. That's because those dogs are well behaved and properly trained. The dog in your article is clearly neither. It's too bad you had to waste all that time dealing with small claims court just to get a $50 fine levied against them. I highly doubt their behavior will change. There are too many people who own pets that treat them like possessions and not family members...I'm sure the owner you encountered at the court was one of these people.