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Animal Tales: What are the dog off-leash rules at parks and in public?

Question: There seems to be an increasing number of off-leash dogs in public parks and places. What should dog owners know and what can be done about this?

Answer: It seems that too often many dog owners assume that just because their dog is friendly, it’s OK to allow them to run off leash at parks, on trails and in public areas. Regardless of how friendly and social a dog is, allowing dogs to run off leash in areas that have leash laws/ordinances is inconsiderate, rude, potentially dangerous and a violation of local leash law ordinances.

Few dog owners have 100 percent verbal control over their dogs, and allowing their dogs to run off leash in leash-required areas can cause injury to people, other dogs, native wildlife and themselves.

If you encounter an off-leash dog in a leash-required area, please alert the owner and request they leash their dog. Be considerate, but firm. If necessary, notify the appropriate parks department staff and the Whatcom Humane Society animal control department. As resources allow, both agencies can increase patrols of problem areas to educate dog owners and if necessary, issue a citation to the offending dog owner.

For dog owners wanting to enjoy the great outdoors and allow your dog to run freely, do your research. Know what areas, parks and trails are dog friendly and offer off-leash areas. Of note, conservation and reserve areas do not allow dogs, so no matter how nice the trails are, leave Fido at home.

Make sure your dog is licensed and always carry a leash and waste bag with you to pick up after your dog. Before taking your dog to a dog park or allowing your pet to run off leash, attend dog training classes and know your dog’s behavior and limitations.

Resources and information regarding Bellingham parks: cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/index.aspx.

Bellingham off-leash information: cob.org/documents/parks/parks-trails/animal-regulations.pdf.

Resources and information regarding Whatcom County parks: co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/parksandtrails.jsp.

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