Get it under control!

Get it under control!

Listen, we need to have a bit of a “grown-up” talk here. Unthinking & rude pet owners are giving the rest of us a bad name.  If they keep it up, the pet access rules that have opened up a bit over the last few years, are going to become strict again. And hey, they asked for it.

Whooping Cranes - Necedah Wildlife Refuge

Whooping Crane – Necedah Wildlife Refuge

A few days ago we were out hiking at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge about an hour drive north-west of Baraboo. We had actually just spotted the first endangered Whooping Cranes of the season out on the marsh, when a pickup truck with 2 very excited, barking dogs pulled up. We knew we’d have to hurry to get a good view of the cranes before the jazzed pups got anywhere near the viewing area. That’s life though. We have 3 dogs ourselves and we realize that wildlife and dogs don’t mix well. When we take our dogs hiking on public trails we don’t expect to see much in the way of wildlife. We also realize that when others have their pets on the trails, it’s not a “wildlife” viewing day. It’s O.K. We all share the trails.

Deer - Necedah Wildlife Refuge

Deer bounding from loose dog…

Well, the folks with the barking dogs went the other way so we had plenty of crane watching time before we turned back to the trail and began to walk the reverse direction along the trail. Suddenly we saw a deer prance out of a stand of small Tamarack trees and stop. Cool, right!? It’s ears perked up, and it made a nervous bounce. Then another. We looked to where the deer was looking and saw our other two hikers on the trail in the distance and coming our direction. Then, in a flash, the deer began to bound back toward the trees. Coming fast from the trail was a black blur. The dog walkers, also didn’t leash their dogs! Suddenly it was madness.

The deer and the dog had disappeared into the woods in a flash. The dog owners were yelling “Come! Come Here!” “Bad Dog!!” and the like. Because of course, if you yell “Come!” to a dog chasing a deer 150 yards away from you, it will just come prancing back. Well, we stood watching and they stood and yelled… and yelled.. Finally, in its own good time the dog came back. Then of course, they scold and yell at the dog some more (Which by the way is no reward to your dog for coming back!), before walking toward us.

When the hikers approached us they made their dogs sit and said “Hi” as if the last 10 minutes hadn’t occurred. Their 2 dogs were still not on leashes. (But laws, shmaws right?) We also noticed both dogs were wearing shock collars. Yep, those worked…

Listen, I know pet owners hate hearing these stories and often want to argue to defend other dog lovers.  Let me be clear; We are pet owners as well, we love our pets and we love taking them out into the state parks and wildlife areas. But these folks have no excuse for having their pets off leash in a wildlife sanctuary. No matter what they thought they knew, they had no control over their pets. And frankly NO pet owner can guarantee they can control an off-leash dog against all temptation. If a dog chases wildlife, or worse injures or kills an animal in a park, that pet owners deserves the response they get.

Folks, especially other pet owners like us, when we see dogs off-lease on the trails we need to call it out. If we see people leaving bags of dog doo hanging from trees, or sitting on benches, we need to report them to the rangers. (At Devil’s Lake call 608-356-8301.) Because if we don’t, sooner or later pets will be banned from the parks. And really that would suck for all of us.  After all, if we are going to co-exist with each other and nature, we need to show some respect all around.

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  1. Joe Salemi

    I agree cometely that people letting dogs off leash in almost any public place must be called out. Dog litter and danger to wildlife and wild life viewing are good enough reasons to call out unleashed dog owners directly and to the authorities. It is a matter of personal responsibility to leash dogs and to call out scofflaws whether they are neighbors or fellow hikers.
    Wild life safety and courtesy to wild life observers or hikers are good enough reason to confront the issue but consider your personal safety and the safety of your own leashed dog who is at a disadvantage to any approaching unleashed dog. Even the best behaved dog on a leash acts aggressively to an unleashed dog creating a very dangerous situation for the scofflaw’s dog, the leashed dog, the law abiding dog owner who has to defend their dog against the attacking dog and then defend themselves against the scofflaw yet loving off leash dog owner. No one wants to risk heart attack, dog bites or orthopedic injury while you become exhausted pivoting around your leashed dog as it defends itself and you spray, kick, punch and even stab or shoot an otherwise loving family dog on the attack. Just the prospect of this is horrifying but very real as my two huskies will tell you.
    The dog owner who thinks that your dog unleashed would never behave aggressively to a leashed dog is sadly misinformed and give my own personal experience will continue to call them out every time and with extreme predjudice.

    1. Author

      Another good point. We’ve also faced this situation on the Steinke Basin trails a few times. It’s so odd that seemingly so many dog owners don’t understand the issue.

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